PREMIER LEAGUE fans rejoice – the three-month coronavirus suspension is almost over.
Professional football around the world is emerging in a new normal hidden door, while many of you will be eager to place your first acca since the lockout started.
The top flight returns with a double header as a few action-packed weeks begin with the Blades looking to blunt the Villans.
Aston Villa vs Sheff Utd (Wednesday, 6 p.m.)
First go to Villa Park, where the surprise package of the season will seek to continue its European load.
Not since Ipswich Town in 2000/01, a team came from the championship and looked so comfortable in the Premier League, with the Blades now a tiny 1/12 to finish in the top half.
At the start of the campaign, optimistic supporters could have landed at a whopping 12/1, when there will already be many who cashed the juicy 11/10 on them to stay upright.
In Villa’s camp, there are more nerves to unravel before the end of the season.
While the Blades have been carefully built around an already established side, Villa went to hell for leather over the summer and brought more than a dozen new faces to the Midlands.
Although Jack Grealish continues to improve and sometimes gain points on his own, it was a tough return to the league for last season’s playoff winners.
They resume the campaign in 19th place, with this match in hand over their rivals potentially crucial for overall survival.
We have seen in Germany that games behind closed doors really seem to have an effect on home / outdoor dynamics.
Last Saturday, there was NO home winners in the Bundesliga, with the exception of Bayern, with only 11 of 52 games taking over the hosts since the return of football.
It remains to be seen if this model will emerge in the Premier League, but we urge you to be careful with your money in the future when you look at so-called “home bankers.” Statistics suggest that there is no longer such a thing.
This game in the past was not without drama – just take last season’s championship meeting, where Villa scored three goals in the last 10 minutes to snatch a precious point.
It was the catalyst for a late playoff push and Dean Smith hopes to establish a scorer similar to their rivals here.
But United will be a tough nut to crack and we don’t expect this match to deliver a fest goal.
In December the Blades missed comfortable 2-0 victories in South Yorkshire and we recommend safe play with less than 2.5 goals here.
Wilder’s men have the most flimsy defense in the division – with the exception of the Liverpool executives – and average the fewest goals per game among the 20 teams (2.0).
Take 4/5 with confidence, while we recommend supporting the draw at 9/4 as both sides negotiate their way to the new normal.
The result would not be a disaster for Villa, who would go through a safety point, while Sheff Utd has drawn 10 huge games out of 28 this season.
With injuries and fitness issues that are sure to take their toll over the next few weeks, we’re going to play it safe and go get Grealish for the Villans.
The Villa talisman has nine games to secure hero status in his childhood club by keeping them – and 13/5 on him to win his eighth of the season is too big to refuse.
SunSport’s Best Bets
Man City vs Arsenal (Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.)
Well, the title could be almost gone – but don’t think it has anything to do with it.
As Man City continues to fight against its Champions League ban next year, Pep Guardiola’s team cannot get rid of the gas in their last ten games of the season.
The victory in this match in hand against Leicester and Chelsea would clearly bring the light of day between them and the hunting platoon, while making Liverpool wait for their trophy parade.
Arsenal were just beginning to find their feet before the lockout, recording three straight wins which somewhat mask the disappointing season of the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta returns to his former playground to face Guardiola for the first time – and you can imagine he will avoid playing David Luiz in the middle of the field.
Summer cannot come quickly enough for the Gunners, who have a ragged front line, pampered midfielder and no backside. Barely ideal.
When the teams met earlier in the campaign in north London, it was the spectacle of Kevin De Bruyne, when the Belgian alone separated Arsenal in the devastating first 45 minutes.
As we have already mentioned in this column, without fans on the terraces, the advantage of the house should not be invoked as usual.
But even so, we are supporting City to take the three points here on an Arsenal team that looks in disarray.
Arteta’s reconstruction over the summer will have to be impressive if it is to be a plausible challenge – take a look at the horror show against Brentford, if you dare.
City is 1/3 to win this match with Ladbrokes and despite the uncertainty over the fitness of the players on both sides, we are taking it all day.
Pair it with a City win and more than 2.5 goals for a 7/10 bag – that’s our bet for the hardware of the week.
Sergio Aguero appears to have confirmed that he will be at Eastlands next season and has had two out of three before the lockout begins.
This match is a match in hand for both and with ten games to go, Aguero’s other opponent, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, appears to be on the showcase.
Ladbrokes runs a special pair market with 10 goals in the 10 games remaining, with Aguero at 10/1 and Auba at 12s.
This is worth a consideration of anyone’s money with their respective starting points.
SunSport’s Best Bets
* All Ladbrokes ratings and correct at time of publication