COVID-hit Villa to play reserve team in FA Cup tie v Liverpool; Spurs game in doubt

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Aston Villa – Liverpool will go ahead, as the English Football Association have confirmed that Friday’s FA Cup third round tie between Villa and Liverpool will take place despite a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the hosts which led to a closing of Villa’s training ground.

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14 positive tests have come back from Villa, nine among first team players, and many other first team players are self-isolating as they were close contacts to those who have COVID-19.

Dean Smith and his entire first-team coaching staff will be absent for Aston Villa – Liverpool, while U23 coach Mark Delaney will manage a Villa team made up of purely U23 and U18 players who have not been in contact with the first team in recent days.

It has also been reported by our partners at Sky Sports that Villa’s Premier League game against Tottenham (on Wednesday, Jan. 13) is in doubt, as the bulk of Villa’s first team will still be self-isolating. The Premier League can postpone the game and have some open windows later in the season for it to be played, while scheduling the FA Cup game is trickier as there isn’t much time before the fourth round (Jan. 23) takes place.

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As reported earlier Thursday, “a large number of first team players and staff” tested positive for the coronavirus and the club has closed its training ground.

The story takes an even odder twist when you consider the Reds played a team of kids against Villa in last season’s League Cup due to fixture congestion and Jurgen Klopp taking all of his first team to the Club World Cup instead of leaving a handful behind to face Villa.

That was a 5-0 win for Villa, and this season’s Villa blasted Liverpool 7-2 in Premier League play. The rematch loses a bit of luster given the absence of every player involved in the 7-star showing.

And with Liverpool struggling, Klopp may well play his very best XI. The Reds, however, won’t have Naby Keita, Joel Matip, and Diogo Jota for the match if it goes ahead in Birmingham, and Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain out on a long-term basis.

Southampton’s cup game against Shrewsbury at St. Mary’s on Saturday was also called off Thursday after a number of the visitors tested positive for coronavirus.

The Premier League announced on Tuesday its own season-high number of COVID-19 cases from last week’s rounds of testing.