Aston Villa will have to rely on a first-XI comprised of young prospects from the U18s and U23s, with the club having a nervous wait for test results to see if they have enough Covid-free players, as reported by The Athletic.
The Villans FA Cup clash with Liverpool this evening was thrown into doubt after it emerged that the Birmingham-based side had suffered a “significant” outbreak at their training ground.
“The entire first-team ‘bubble’ has been placed into isolation following a large outbreak of the virus. A statement on Thursday revealed ‘a large number of first-team players and staff returned positive tests’ at Villa,” Gregg Evans reported. “But keen to play the third-round tie, Villa tested their Under-23 and Under-18 team on Thursday morning to see whether they would be fit and available to represent the club in the competition instead.”
“The hope is that enough of the test results are returned negative, giving Villa a sufficient amount of players to complete the match,” the journalist added. “If it goes ahead as planned, Under-23 boss Mark Delaney will take charge of the team. There will not be a single member of the first-team bubble at Villa Park but boss Dean Smith is likely to chat through a game-plan with Delaney in advance.”
The latest update provides a great deal of hope that the tie will go ahead as planned, pending test results.
If the two Premier League sides do end up meeting on the pitch tonight, it will be a reversal of circumstances from that faced by Liverpool the prior season, when Villa faced a young Reds first-XI, as Jurgen Klopp prepared the seniors abroad for their Club World Cup commitment.
We’d expect the German to field a much-changed XI, as he looks to give a few of his usual starters some much-needed rest ahead of the pivotal clash with Manchester United next week.
We at the EOTK hope that the test results provide some positive news for the West Midlands outfit and that those currently affected by COVID-19 have a swift recovery.