Aston Villa are sweating on the test results of their Under-23 squad as their FA Cup third round clash with Liverpool hangs in the balance.
A host of positive Covid-19 test results have swept through the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground this week, putting the game in question.
Villa shut the doors to their training ground on Thursday after what the club described as a “significant” outbreak among the first team players and staff.
Players and staff took their routine tests on Monday, and saw an unusually high return of positive tests, leading a number to head into self-isolation.
A second round of testing duly led to further positive results on Thursday, which saw the cancellation of first-team training.
Now boss Dean Smith and all of his first team stars, including captain Jack Grealish, plus staff in the first-team bubble, won’t be anywhere near Villa Park if Friday night’s encounter is allowed to go ahead.
The FA have been in discussions with Villa as all parties desperately try to find a solution to play the fixture.
But with rescheduling the game before the Fourth Round all but impossible due to fixture congestion, if the game goes ahead, it will be Under-23 boss Mark Delaney and his kids taking centre stage.
However, with some of the U23s also set to miss out having been involved in first-team training too recently, a number of Under-18s will be bumped up to ensure that the young squad has enough numbers.
It is a complete role reversal of last season’s Carabao Cup quarter-final, in which the Reds were forced to put out a young side with their seniors in the Middle East competing in the Club World Cup. Villa duly won that game 5-0.
Delaney will pick from whichever youngsters are available to him after further test results return to the club on Friday morning.
However, if more positive results are forthcoming, then the Villans – seven time winners – may well be forced to forfeit their place in the competition.
It would leave next Wednesday’s Premier League showdown with Spurs in doubt also.
There is no hard and fast rule to decide Villa’s fate, as shown by two other games also left the world’s most famous cup competition in chaos.
The FA have told clubs that, in practice, they must fulfil their tie if they have a minimum of 14 players fit and available, i.e. not suffering from the virus and not self-isolating due to be being a close contact.
Shrewsbury’s clash with Southampton has been cancelled and may be forfeited after a number of the League One club’s players and staff tested positive, leaving
However Championship side Derby County are sending a team made up of Under-18s and Under-23s to Chorley for their tie, having already confirmed that already confirmed that interim manager Wayne Rooney and his entire first-team squad won’t make the trip.
Like Villa vs Liverpool, that match, and the clash between Brentford and Middlesbrough – who are in a similar situation to the Rams – remains on at present.
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