Aston Villa are set to play their FA Cup tie against Premier League champions Liverpool on Friday, 8 January 2020 without any of their first-team players.
In a bizarre turn of events, Aston Villa will field a team made up of just U-23s and U-18s against Liverpool in the FA Cup. This is because the entire Aston Villa first team is in isolation following a Coronavirus scare.
In addition, the club’s management personnel – made up of coach Dean Smith and assistants John Terry, Craig Shakespeare and Richard O’Kelly – is also unavailable.
There is still doubt that the Aston Villa youngsters will be available for the FA Cup fixture against Liverpool. The medical team tested the available U-23s and U-18s on Thursday, 7 January 2020 while the board awaits the results.
Mark Delaney, Aston Villa U-23 coach will be in charge of the game if the players get the greenlight. The circumstances surrounding the unavailability of the first-team squad have to do with a COVID-19 outbreak within the Aston Villa ranks.
Reports claim the Aston Villa squad is suffering from the most ‘extensive’ and ‘rampant’ coronavirus outbreak among any Premier League team.
The outbreak did not affect the younger players because Anston Villa has a special “red zone” for the first-team personnel; this is a separate bubble that only they use. Thus, there is hope that the younger players can go on to feature.
However, there are emerging questions as to why the FA cannot simply reschedule the Aston Villa versus Liverpool match. The plausible answer might be that the Cup’s schedule is very tight and already congested.
The FA Cup fourth round is coming up in about two weeks time and with other accompanying League fixtures, rescheduling will disrupt the entire calendar. This is also why the FA mandated that clubs in the third round can play if they have a minimum of 14 fit players.
The Football Association and Aston Villa are working closely together to try to ensure that the club’s Third Round Proper fixture with Liverpool can go ahead as planned at Villa Park tomorrow evening.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 7, 2021
It is clearly a big advantage for Liverpool to advance to the next round over a weakened Aston Villa team.