Aston Villa v Sheffield United - Dean Smith not convinced about extra subs

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has questioned the introduction of five substitutes as the Premier League prepares to resume.

DOUBTFUL: Aston Villa manager Dean Smith. Picture: Mark Kerton/PA

Villa host Sheffield United tomorrow, the first game in the top flight since it was postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The division is packing in 92 games in 39 days and football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board, gave competitions the option of increasing substitutes to protect players.

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Premier League clubs voted in favour and teams can also name nine substitutes instead of seven but Smith feels it gives some sides an advantage.

“I wasn’t for it,” he said at yesterday’s pre-match conference. “I just believe we started the season with certain rules and now we have changed it.

“I suppose it helps the clubs with the bigger squads.

“There was talk to change it because there is more risk of injury but having more subs doesn’t help that. I just wanted it to stay as it was. I think Sheffield United were the same.

“Having five subs gives us the chance to rotate the squad during the game. It is like being away in a World Cup camp and playing a mini-tournament.”

Villa are second-bottom in the Premier League and played the final game before the shutdown, a 4-0 defeat at Leicester in March.

Victory over the Blades, their game in hand over their relegation rivals, would take them out of the drop zone with nine matches remaining and Smith is eager to get started.

“It is an honour, the eyes of the world will be on us,” he said ahead of the behind-closed-doors game.

“The players during the lockdown have been very compliant with all the work that was sent them. They are itching to get back.

“The biggest problem was having no timelines to work from, so finally getting the fixtures was great to get an itinerary planned. We are people who want to plan ahead and it’s difficult to do that with no timeline.”

Wesley and Tom Heaton are sidelined as they recover from long-term knee injuries but John McGinn is available after fracturing his ankle in December.

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