June 15, 2020 / 12:08 PM / a month ago

The world will be watching us, says Villa's Smith

FILE PHOTO- Premier League - Southampton v Aston Villa - St Mary's Stadium, Southampton, Britain - February 22, 2020 Aston Villa manager Dean Smith reacts REUTERS/Ian Walton

(Reuters) - All eyes will be on the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United when they restart the English top-flight season that was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Villa manager Dean Smith said on Monday.

The league resumes on Wednesday — three months after the season was suspended — with the high-flying Blades travelling to Villa Park and Smith said it was an honour to play the first fixture on the league’s restart.

“The eyes of the world will be on us. We’re looking forward to it,” he told reporters in a virtual news conference.

“We’ve worked very hard. The players during the lockdown were very compliant with all the work we sent them. Since the lockdown, non-contact training, contact training... The players are itching to get back.”

The fixture will also be the first Premier League game to be played without spectators.

“That adrenaline rush that you get with them being a part of the game will be disappointing to not have,” Smith said. “The players have to come up with their own motivating tools now.”

The Premier League is the last of the major European leagues to restart its season, with the Bundesliga having resumed last month while La Liga got back underway last week. Italy has also restarted its cup competition while Serie A resumes on Saturday.

Smith said the announcement of the fixtures for the season’s restart was a welcome relief as it finally allowed coaching staff to plan ahead. His side are second-bottom of the table and two points off the safety zone, albeit with a game in hand.

“It was great to be able to fit it on my fixtures board and get an itinerary planned. We are people who want to plan ahead and it’s difficult to do that with no timeline.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

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