Aston Villa v Sheffield United: Premier League – live | Premier League

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Key events

55 mins: Wilder is preparing a couple of substitutes to come on – one is Max Lowe, the other a mystery at time of writing.

54 mins: Cash and Bailey combine effectively down the right again, and the right-back chips a cross in that’s just over Ramsey’s head.

52 mins: Villa have definitely eased off the throttle a touch, playing up to the final third and then waiting for an opening. McGinn looks for Digne with a cross that Bogle heads away, before Diaby and Watkins almost link up on the edge of the area.

50 mins: Larouci had bought himself some hand with Bailey getting booked, but he quickly surrenders it by barging into his opponent, and getting a yellow card of his own.

49 mins: The free kick finds Robinson in unexpected space, and he opts to cross rather than shoot – but the flag is up, Villa’s hair-trigger offside trap doing the job.

48 mins: Larouci barrels upfield and Bailey pulls him back, grabs his shirt and then bundles him over. It’s once, twice, three times a yellow for Bailey – the first of the match.

47 mins: Villa start off patiently, trying to find gaps down the right and then the left, where the advancing Digne wins a corner. From Cash’s cross, Watkins’ back-post corner causes trouble but Sheffield United scramble it away.

Here we go again

An intriguing stat for you: in 93 matches, Unai Emery has never overseen a goalless draw in the Premier League.

Here’s Barney Ronay on the other two teams hoping to be No 1 at Christmas:

“While statistics and our mysterious friend Dr. Win Probability has Aston Villa as a clear favourite, I can’t help but agree it would be just typical if Sheffield United somehow won, perhaps because of a silly handball penalty decision,” writes Kari Tulinius.

“Living in Denmark, I’m following the game on BBC Radio Five,” says Tim Hall. “What a pleasure to hear Aaron Paul on the Friday Night Social.” So technically, I’m in competition with Jesse from Breaking Bad? No pressure, then.

John McGinn is an old school scurrier isn’t he @niallmcveigh?

Is it a peculiarly Scottish thing? Gordon Strachan and John Robertson were similar in style.

— Gary Naylor 85 (@garynaylor85) December 22, 2023

And let’s not forget Archie Gemmill’s world-class scurry in ‘78.

“I’m at Hampden Park, Scotland’s national stadium, capacity 52,000, to watch visitors Dundee United take on Queen’s Park in the Scottish Championship,” writes Simon McMahon.

“It’s less than 5% full, mostly away fans. Queen’s have won the Scottish Cup 10 times, placing them behind only Celtic and Rangers, and are twice FA Cup runners-up. Maybe if there was a World Club Championship in the 1880’s they’d have played in that?”

Well Simon, as it happens, there was an unofficial “world championship” played between the Scottish and FA Cup winners, way back when. Queen’s Park won it four times and the first English champions were … Aston Villa!

Half time: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United

Another attempted long ball to Watkins runs through to Foderingham, and that’s it for the first half. Diaby went closest in drawing a fine save from the visiting keeper, while Villa should have had a penalty for Souza’s early shirt-pull on Watkins. Sheffield United have come here to try and battle for a point, and they’re halfway there. More soon.

46 mins: It’s Sheffield United with more of the ball at the end of the half, and Larouci mishits his pass with Archer in space.

45 mins: Two added minutes. Villa would love a goal before half-time to break the tension.

44 mins: Chris Wilder will be happy with this first half – his team have been very defensive but it has worked so far, and Villa are starting to get frustrated.

42 mins: Digne attempts to unpick the massed visiting defence with a long ball, but it eludes Ramsey and Watkins, both in hot pursuit.

41 mins: Diaby then swings a cross in towards Watkins, who can’t get a toe on it as it sails through to Foderingham.

40 mins: Diaby, probably Villa’s brightest spark so far, finds Cash on the overlap, but the full-back rushes his cut-back to nobody in particular.

38 mins: The best opening of the half for the visitors, which isn’t saying much – but Bogle does well to cut the ball back under pressure, even if nobody in yellow can get to it first.

36 mins: “Are you sleeping?” Emery asks the referee, with a gesture to match. Then it’s Villa who get penalised, Lenglet leaning on Archer as Sheffield United try to break.

35 mins: Villa are taking on this challenge well, prepared to try and play intricate stuff in the penalty area. It almost works for Diaby, but his shot is charged down by Baldock.

34 mins: Diaby bolts down the left and breezes past Larouci – but can’t pick out a man with his cross. It rebounds to McGinn, who ignores the home fans’ pleas to shoot and tries to thread a pass to Watkins that is cleared away.

32 mins: McGinn is beginning to rove forward in his usual fashion, and a deflection almost presents him with a shot on goal on the right side of the area.

30 mins: Luiz has some choice words for Norwood – “second time”, he tells his opponent after another poor tackle in midfield. Souza then gets involved, jostling with Luiz and Diaby – even more than his nine outfield teammates, he looks like a walking yellow card.

28 mins: Larouci stops McGinn getting his cross in, at the expense of a corner. From it, a far-post knockdown lands to Watkins, whose shot flies over the bar! He had to adjust quickly, but that was a chance.

26 mins: Villa have racked up more than 200 passes; Sheffield United are on 15. The possession pendulum is at 82% in the hosts’ favour.

25 mins: Larouci nicks the ball from Bailey with the Villa wide man in dangerous territory. A chance for Sheffield United to break, but Slimane and Archer are both caught offside.

24 mins: Ollie Norwood is penalised for a late challenge on Douglas Luiz.

23 mins: Unai Emery has had a word with Taylor, unimpressed by the visitors’ hands-on approach.

21 mins: A terrific corner from McGinn finds Konsa at the back post – his flying header goes over the bar. Trusty was jostling with Konsa in the buildup – that non-penalty award means the visitors’ penalty-box antics are now under a microscope.

19 mins: There was another handball appeal from the home fans in the aftermath of that goal. The pattern of the game looks set, with United defending in numbers.

17 mins: Save! More than a half-chance here as Matty Cash sets Leon Bailey away down the right and he plays Moussa Diaby in. Diaby’s low shot, hit quickly, would catch a lot of keepers out but Foderingham gets low to parry it away!

16 mins: Another half-chance for Villa, but Foderingham is alert again to get off his line and gather the ball.

14 mins: Anthony Taylor pauses play to have a word with Vinícius Souza. The Sheffield United midfielder has been a bit over-exuberant so far, to say the least.

12 mins: From the corner, there are two further VAR checks – one for a pull on Konsa, the other for a close-range handball. John Brooks certainly earning his corn up at Stockley Park, but neither incident merits further intervention.

No penalty! We see enough replays to start to suspect a trip to the monitor is incoming – but then Taylor gets the nod to play on. Souza is a little fortunate there, it was a silly thing to do.

Sheffield United's Vini Souza in action with Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins.
Sheffield United’s Vini Souza in action with Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Action Images/Reuters

9 mins: Penalty? Watkins stretches for a far-post cross and goes down under pressure from three Sheffield United defenders. Taylor waves it away, but replays show a pretty clear push and shirt pull by Vinícius Souza …

8 mins: Ramsey holds the ball up in the corner and finds Douglas Luiz, whose attempted return pass into the area is just overhit.

6 mins: Yasser Larouci, stationed on the left of United’s back five, does well to hold off Moussa Diaby.

4 mins: John McGinn lifts the ball over the Sheffield United back line, but Foderingham is off his line to collect ahead of Watkins. A good job too, as the Villa striker was being played onside.

2 mins: Villa win a free kick close to the right-hand corner of the area, which Luiz backheels for Digne to bend a shot high and wide. A cross might have been the better option from there.

Manchester City are world champions, Júlian Álvarez scoring very early and very late to bookend a very comfortable win over Fluminense.


Villa fans join in with a pre-game ‘mobile phone light show’, before Anthony Taylor gets us under way. Sheffield United are kicking off as 13-1 underdogs.

Hi-ho, Aston Villa! The ground is absolutely rocking as both teams take to the field. Sky have the hosts lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with McGinn and Luiz anchoring midfield. It looks like a back five for the visitors, who are in their tidy all-yellow away kit, with red and black trim.

Whatever your feelings on the festive period, the quantity of football can only be a good thing. Unless of course, you’re a professional footballer (I can’t imagine many are reading, but do get in touch). Here’s a guide to all the upcoming Premier League games …

As Matt Burtz points out, Villa have lost at home this season – to Everton in the Carabao Cup. “It would carry more weight if Everton hadn’t then lost on penalties to Fulham,” Matt sighs.

Over in Jeddah, Manchester City are closing on a world title but Rodri has gone down with an injury. The Club World Cup giveth, and taketh away. Join John Brewin for that one …

Unai Emery makes four changes from the team that won 2-1 at Brentford. Clément Lenglet, Lucas Digne, Douglas Luiz and Leon Bailey come in, with Diego Carlos and Álex Moreno dropping to the bench, Pau Torres injured and Boubacar Kamara suspended.

Digne and Douglas Luiz are both available again after suspension, as is Sheffield United’s Jack Robinson. Chris Wilder is still missing several injured players and brings in George Baldock, Ollie Norwood, Yasser Larouci and Anis Ben Slimane. Cameron Archer, who left Villa in the summer, will look to spoil his old club’s party.

Team news

Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martínez; Cash, Konsa, Lenglet, Digne; Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Bailey, Ramsey, Diaby; Watkins.
Subs: Diego Carlos, Álex Moreno, Chambers, Zaniolo, Durán, Dendoncker, Marschall, Iroegbunam, O’Reilly.

Sheffield United (5-3-2): Foderingham; Bogle, Baldock, Robinson, Trusty, Larouci; Ben Slimane, Norwood, Vinícius Souza; Brooks, Archer.
Subs: Adam Davies, Lowe, Fleck, Hamer, McBurnie, Traoré, Thomas, Osborn, McAtee.

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).


18 June 2020: the first Premier League match under ‘Project Restart’, following the Covid-19 shutdown. Aston Villa v Sheffield United at Villa Park, with one team chasing Europe and the other battling relegation. Back then, the roles were reversed and 19th-placed Villa clung on for a point after Hawk-Eye failed to spot that the home keeper, Orjan Nylund, had carried the ball over his own line. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” said the Blades manager, Chris Wilder – and he didn’t know the half of it yet.

Villa went on to stay up by a single point as United fell away, finishing ninth and then slumping to relegation during the top flight’s silent era as Wilder departed. Returning after two seasons away, they have found it brutally tough and arrive here bottom of the table, with their former manager recalled on a rescue mission. A new Project Restart is in effect at Bramall Lane, but they can only dream that it might be as successful as the one launched at Villa Park 14 months ago.

When Steven Gerrard’s time finally ran out last October, Aston Villa were still looking down, not up, but have been transformed beyond all expectations by Unai Emery. They are third in the table and have won their last 15 home league games. Victory tonight would take them to the top – and with Arsenal visiting Anfield tomorrow, Manchester City still in Saudi Arabia and a reasonable run of games ahead, their title dream could move closer to reality in the coming weeks.

Having just seen off City and Arsenal at home, a team with two top-flight away wins since that fateful day in 2020 should pose Villa no problems. Of course, that won’t ease the nagging feeling that every fatalistic home fan will have. Wouldn’t it just be typical? Wilder and United may also feel they are owed something from that sliding-doors moment 1,282 days ago. Whether they can get it is another story. Kick-off is at 8pm, GMT.

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