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Sheffield United, defender Jack O’Connell is out tonight, the League’s first game against Aston Villa with a knee injury, the first in minutes that the Englishman has missed all season.
The center back was a key part of Chris Wilder’s newly promoted success in the Premier League team and was viewed as a potential England call for Gareth Southgate. It is expected that the setbacks will not prevent him from playing a role later in the season and in the past he recovered quickly from their injuries.
In four seasons, the 26-year-old at Sheffield United has missed seven league games as part of the team that disappeared from League One to the Premier League. This season, he played every 28 minutes of the club’s 28 league games before the Coronavirus suspension in March.
There are also doubts about the suitability of midfielder John Fleck, Scotland international. The game at Villa Park will have major consequences on both sides with the team’s potentially lifting Wilder win over Manchester United in fifth place, currently, a Champions League. A victory for Villa would mean that they go to 16 and get out of the relegation places.
The injuries show the difficulty that many clubs have experienced in bringing players back into great shape on a short time scale from training initially limited under government protocols to avoid contact. Sheffield United is still in the FA Cup and is fortunate to qualify for European competition for the first time in the history of the club. With a very settled, especially in defense, they conceded fewer goals than any team in the division, bar leaders of Liverpool.
Wilder told Sky Sports this week that he had kept his messages to players as simple as possible during the league suspension and would not change the approach that served so well.
“You trust that the players will show the mentality they have done in recent seasons,” he said. “How they coped with disappointments, how they dealt with success, what motivates them, what motivates them and you remind them of all these things. It suddenly cannot be that we are something that we are not – it is certainly a reminder of me. “