Aston Villa cleared to take on Liverpool in FA Cup with youth players

Guardian sport and PA Media on 8 January 2021

Aston Villa’s FA Cup third-round tie at home to Liverpool on Friday night will go ahead, with Villa cleared to use players from their under-23s and youth team after a Covid outbreak.

Villa’s entire first-team squad and staff have been forced into isolation but testing on the younger players provided enough negative results for the club to field a team. The under-23s manager, Mark Delaney, will take charge.

On Thursday Villa said “a large number” of positives in the first team had led to the closure of their training ground.

Derby are set to take on Chorley on Saturday without any first-team players because of a coronavirus outbreak, and Shrewsbury’s game at Southampton will not take place later that day for identical reasons. The Premier League club could be awarded a walkover.

The outbreak at Villa raises questions about whether their upcoming Premier League matches can go ahead. They are due to face Tottenham on Wednesday and Everton the following Saturday.

The EFL reported 112 positive tests from its strategic league-wide testing programme this week involving 3,507 players and staff from 66 clubs involved in FA Cup or league action this weekend. The six clubs who did not feature will be tested before their next league fixtures. It is understood almost a third of the positive tests centred on three clubs, with most clubs averaging one or two cases.

Brentford’s head coach, Thomas Frank, has tested positive, meaning the B-team coach Neil MacFarlane will be in charge for the Cup game against Middlesbrough, who have suffered a more widespread Covid outbreak.

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