Aston Villa have agreed to play their youth team against Liverpool in the FA Cup third round on Friday night following an outbreak of coronavirus among the senior team.
Villa were forced to close their Bodymoor Heath training ground on Thursday after a large number of first-team players and staff tested positive for Covid-19, putting their Cup tie in serious doubt.
But, according to The Athletic, the game is poised to go ahead after Villa agreed to field a team made up entirely of youth players.
Neither manager Dean Smith nor any of his in-form Villa players will take part in the match, but they are keen to play the tie regardless.
Both the Under-23 and Under-18 teams were tested for coronavirus on Thursday and if enough results are negative on Friday morning then development team boss Mark Delaney will take charge of a makeshift squad against reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.
The youth teams train on different pitches and are housed in a different building to the first team, so have not interacted with the senior bubble.
If there are another round of positive tests among the Under-23 and Under-18 squads, however, and Villa cannot field a team, then the match will be cancelled.
Ironically, Liverpool were in a similar position to Villa – but for very different reasons – when they played a youth team in the Carabao Cup against Smith’s side last season, with the first team having been preoccupied with the Club World Cup.
Unfortunately for Villa, some of their most promising youngsters have been training with the first team and will not be able to take part in Friday’s game if it goes ahead, though still have highly rated talents like Louie Barry and Aaron Ramsey who could be involved.
A decision has yet to be made on whether Villa can fulfil their Premier League fixture against Tottenham on Wednesday, while Southampton’s FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury and Derby’s clash with Chorley have been called off due to coronavirus outbreaks.
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