15 December 2019 08:40
Get the biggest Aston Villa FC stories by email Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email Determined Dean Smith has called on Aston Villa to take a leaf out of Sheffield United's book - by being tougher to beat. Chris Wilder's impressive Blades have won just one more than Aston Villa while scoring four goals fewer than Smith's men. Yet, more alarmingly, Villa are seven points and nine places below fellow newly-promoted side Sheffield United. Smith has become increasingly frustrated with Villa's leaky defence in recent weeks, conceding eight goals from their last three matches. As for team news, Smith's made two shock changes: Kortney Hause in for Tyrone Mings and Henri Lansbury in for Douglas Luiz.
Both Lansbury and Hause make their first Premier League starts of the season. Bjorn Engels, meanwhile, comes in for Ezri Konsa while, at right-back, Frederic Guilbert replaces Ahmed Elmohamady. One player Villa will be hoping to get a tune out of today is John McGinn. That day, one-time Villa full-back, Enda Stevens, and right wing-back George Baldock got the goals, emphasising United's dominance in wide areas. SHEFFIELD UNITED (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O'Connell; Baldock, Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram, Stevens; McGoldrick, Mousset.
Full lineups for both teams are in the Twitter stream below - and our podcast is at the bottom of the page. Jack Grealish then missed a penalty to cap another difficult afternoon for Dean Smith's team. It was a moment which summed up another hugely frustrating Villa display, as they slipped to a sixth defeat in eight Premier League matches. There were four changes in total, including three in the back four where Kortney Hause was handed a Premier League debut in place of the injured Tyrone Mings. Hause, who had only once featured on the bench in the league thus far, was partnered at centre-back by Bjorn Engels, while Frederic Guilbert also returned at right-back.
Yet by far the most surprising change came in midfield, where Smith opted to hand Henri Lansbury a first ever Premier League start, in place of Douglas Luiz. The opening half was comfortably the least eventful involving Villa this season, though it is questionable whether Smith will have minded too much as his team remained disciplined and comfortably contained the hosts. Norwood was the first man to see yellow after bringing down John McGinn, with Fleck following him into the book when he caught Frederic Guilbert late. His backheel created space for Lundstram to cross and Fleck finished smartly beyond Heaton, after the delivery had taken the slightest flick off Hause. But the hosts were also threatening a second and almost found it when Oli McBurnie, on as a substitute, crossed for Fleck with only the intervention of Guilbert denying the midfielder a tap in. With 17 minutes remaining, Fleck did double the lead, as he again made the most of a piece of inspiration from a team-mate. This time it was David McGoldrick, who flicked the ball up and over the Villa defence for Fleck to run through and fire past Heaton. A miserable afternoon for the visitors then got even worse when Grealish missed a golden chance to get them back into the game. But Grealish sent the spot-kick cannoning off the underside of the bar and in that instant any hope Villa had of salvaging something from the match seemed to disappear. 50 - GOAL Sheffield United break the deadlock with a fine move. Oli Norwood's backheel creates space for John Lundstram and his cross, which takes a flick off Kortney Hause, is put home by John Fleck. 73 - GOAL Fleck doubles the home side's lead, racing on to David McGoldrick's flick before firing beyond Heaton. 78 - MISSED PENALTY Jack Grealish misses the chance to get Villa back into it as he sends a penalty crashing against the bar. Sheff U (3-5-2): Henderson, Basham, Egan, O'Connell, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood (Besic 86), Fleck, Stevens, McGoldrick (Osborn 90), Mousset (McBurnie 61) Subs not used: Freeman, Sharp, Jagielka, Moore (gk). Villa (4-3-3): Heaton, Guilbert, Engels, Hause, Targett, McGinn, Nakamba, Lansbury (Luiz 66), El Ghazi (Trezeguet 80), Wesley (Kodjia 69), Grealish Subs not used: Elmohamady, Konsa, Taylor, Nyland (gk). With only one win in their last five games in the Premier League, Dean Smith's Aston Villa will be looking to turn around their fortunes in a must-win game against a tough-to-beat Sheffield United team. Villa enter a vital period of their season. In their coming games Premier League games they play all three teams below them in must-win six-pointers. Coming into their game against Sheffield United, they will be without Mings, who limped off in their loss to Leicester City and is expected to be out until at least the new year. The injured Mings will have to be replaced by either Bjorn Engels or Kourtney Hause Despite Matt Targett limping off in his side's heavy loss to a convincing Leicester-side, he will return in defence to face Sheffield United. With Targett lining up one side, on the other side of the defence Frederic Guilbert is to be brought into replace Ahmed Elmohamady. The star of Villa's season so far, Jack Grealish, will be leading his hometown club out as captain once more. The young Englishman is at the centre of everything good to come from Villa Park this year, and has thrown his name into the national team with Euro 2020 on the horizon. With only one loss and having taken nine-points from their last six games, they may be a class above away side Villa. Aston Villa Predicted Line-up (4-4-2): Heaton; Guilbert, Konsa, Engels, Targett; Nakamba, Grealish, McGinn, Hourihane; Trezeguet, Wesley.