Aston Villa first team and manager Smith to miss FA Cup game against Liverpool

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Covid-19 outbreak means Premier League squad will have to use their Under-23s and academy players for Reds game

Aston Villa will be without first-team team and coach Dean Smith for the FA Cup third round match against Liverpool on Friday after a Covid-19 outbreak at the Midlands club.
The home side will use their Under-23 squad and other academy players for the clash with the Premier League champions, depending on the number of negative tests for the virus.

Instead of Smith, U23 boss Mark Delaney will take charge of the team.

Villa was forced to close its Bodymoor Heath training ground on Thursday after reporting a ‘significant coronavirus outbreak’.

A number of senior players and staff received positive tests on Monday and began to self-isolate, with a new round of tests giving even more positive results on Thursday.

It meant Villa’s first team had their training session canceled just over 24 hours before they had to face Liverpool at Villa Park, in a repeat of the game that ended 7-2 at home in the Premier League. earlier. this season.

There were initial fears that the game would have to be called off and that Villa may have been forced to give up as the already busy schedule means there is very little time to reschedule the game.

Instead, they will field a squad of young players, as the Championship Derby foresees when they face Chorley outside the league on Saturday after an outbreak forced the entire senior squad, including the interim manager. Wayne Rooney, to isolate himself.

Villa’s improvised squad will be a reversal of what happened in the Carabao Cup quarter-final match between the teams in December 2019, when Liverpool were forced to play a reserve team as the squad senior was playing in the Club World Cup in Qatar on the same day.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said his side had no positive cases to report before heading to Villa Park on Friday but the results of the latest tests have yet to be released.

When asked if his team was in the clear, he told reporters: “Yeah, 100% we don’t have any cases right now. But yesterday’s tests, we don’t have the results yet. But until then everything was fine. ”

The Reds are expected to name James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones to the squad.

Villa is the latest in a growing number of Premier League clubs to suffer from an epidemic of positive cases in recent weeks, which saw four matches postponed in December.

Newcastle’s game against Smith’s side early last month has been postponed due to an outbreak at the Magpies’ training ground. Manchester City then had to postpone their game against Everton on December 28 just four hours before kick-off after a number of cases were reported among players and staff.

Two of Fulham’s festive matches, against Tottenham and Burnley, have also been called off after an outbreak within the Cottagers squad. Sheffield United have also reported a number of positive cases, although their matches against Burnley and Crystal Palace have gone as planned.

It is perhaps therefore not surprising that the Premier League reported on Tuesday that 40 positive cases, a season high, had been recorded in the last round of testing.

It comes as the UK grapples with an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the country, fueled in part by a new, more communicable variant of the disease.

The rise in cases prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose a full national lockdown on Monday, although elite sport such as the Premier League was allowed to continue.

There had been talk of suspending the season for a few weeks to act as a “circuit breaker” and stem the rise in cases. The Premier League, however, denied the information, insisting they had confidence in the strict hygiene protocols currently in place at training grounds and stadiums.

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