Aston Villa to field Under-23 players against Liverpool following COVID outbreak

Aston Villa are expected to go ahead with their FA Cup third round tie against Premier League leaders Liverpool on Friday night – but without their entire first team or coaching staff.

A coronavirus outbreak at the club has forced manager Dean Smith and the senior Villa squad into enforced isolation. But the game is still likely to go ahead, with a Villa team made up of available Under-23 and academy players to contest the tie instead.

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Dean Smith and the Villa squad have been forced into isolation | LINDSEY PARNABY/Getty Images

Southampton vs Shrewsbury has been postponed due to an outbreak of positive cases at the latter, but Villa confirmed their intention on Thursday night to ensure the Liverpool game goes ahead.

With the 2020/21 campaign already needing to catch up to make up for the delayed start as a knock-on of last season’s summer programme, Villa have five Premier League games scheduled by the end of January and the opportunity to play re-arranged games is extremely small.

The Daily Mail notes that a prospective Villa squad to face Liverpool have all been tested and the results will be fast-tracked to determine if the tie can go ahead as scheduled with those players.

That Villa team has been pulled together from the junior ranks and will be managed by Under-23 coach Mark Delaney, with first-team boss Smith unavailable.

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Ex-Villa defender Mark Delaney will manage the team | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

It is roles reversed, albeit in very different circumstances, from an EFL Cup fixture between the two clubs just over 12 months ago.

On that occasion, Liverpool were unable to fulfil the tie because of commitments in the FIFA Club World Cup and fielded a junior team against Villa while their senior players were in Qatar for the international competition. Taking advantage of the circumstances, Villa won 5-0.

Villa are not the only club prepared to use Under-23 and academy players in the FA Cup third round, with Derby County taking similar measures for their clash with non-league Chorley.

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