By Ricky Zililo
Unlike his Zimbabwean compatriot Teenage Hadebe who marked the restart of football action in Turkey as an unused substitute, Marvelous Nakamba will be hoping to be in the starting line-up for Aston Villa when the English Premier League (EPL) restarts tonight.
Hadebe, who plays for Yeni Malatyaspor, sat on the bench when his relegation threatened side lost 1-2 to Kasimpasa.
Malatyaspor are third from the bottom in the Turkish league, with 25 points from 27 games, and Hadebe and his teammates now have seven matches to save their side from the dreaded relegation axe.
Nakamba, who is in his debut EPL season after joining Villa from Belgian side Club Brugge, will have a host of Zimbabweans rallying behind him tonight as he tries to play a vital role in leading the Birmingham-based side’s survival against Sheffield United.
Nakamba has made 21 appearances for Villa out of 28 games.
The game against Sheffield, who are seventh on the table with 43 points and are chasing a slot in Europe, presents a tight return for Villa, who are second from the bottom with 25 points, two points away from safety.
Villa are hard-pressed to return with a win, having lost their last four league matches played before the Covid-19-enforced suspension in March.
In their last game before the long break, Villa were hammered 4-0 by Leicester City.
Without their vociferous fans at Villa Park, Nakamba and his teammates have to put up a good show for the supporters, who will be watching the game on television.
They will seek to invoke the spirit of 1982, when Villa last played a competitive game behind-closed-doors at Villa Park by beating Besiktas 3-0 in a European Cup fixture.
Then, crowd trouble in the previous season had earned Villa an empty stadium penalty from UEFA.
But tonight is different, the global Covid-19 pandemic has forced football to be played in an empty stadium.
Sheffield United, who beat Villa 2-1 in the reverse fixture in which Nakamba featured, could move up the ladder and dislodge Manchester United in fifth place should they win tonight. The Chronicle