Aston Villa’s FA Cup third-round clash against Liverpool is due to go ahead this evening… with Villa’s team entirely comprised of youth players.
A coronavirus outbreak has swept through Villa’s senior squad this week but the Premier League club have worked to try and ensure Friday’s match can go ahead.
And it is understood they have been successful with Liverpool to visit Villa Park this evening to take on a Villa side made up of Under-18 and Under-23 players.
No first-team players will take part in the third-round clash at Villa Park, while boss Dean Smith will not manage the side for the match – which is LIVE on talkSPORT.
Assistants John Terry, Craig Shakespeare and Richard O’Kelly will also not be at the match, with no individual in the senior bubble involved.
Under-23s coach Mark Delaney, who played for Villa between 1999 and 2007, will take charge of the side against Jurgen Klopp’s reigning Premier League champions – whom Villa beat 7-2 earlier this season.
The youth squads and staff have been tested but they will need to be negative when the results come back on Friday to feature.
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The youngsters train in a different area to the first team at Bodymoor Heath so have not come into contact with them, but if there is a further raft of positive tests the game will almost certainly be called off.
Villa were forced to shut the training ground on Thursday after confirming a large number of players and staff had contracted COVID-19.
Defender Jake Walker has been recalled from his loan at Alvechurch, who play in the Southern League Premier Division Central, to underline the numbers and players Villa need on Friday.
The club, Football Association and Premier League held talks on Thursday and confirmed they were trying to get the game on.
The FA said in a statement on Twitter: “The @FA and @AVFCOfficial are working closely together to try to ensure that the club’s #EmiratesFACup third round tie with @LFC can go ahead as planned at Villa Park tomorrow evening.
“Final confirmation will be made tomorrow pending the results of additional Covid-19 testing.”
Derby have also made the decision to take their youth team to Chorley for their FA Cup tie on Saturday after significant cases within their first-team bubble, but Shrewsbury’s game at Southampton is off after an outbreak at the Sky Bet League One club.
Although in extremely different circumstances, the game has similarities to last season’s Carabao Cup quarter-final between the teams in December 2019.
Liverpool put out a youth side after their senior squad travelled to Doha for the Club World Cup and Villa won 5-0.
talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 bring you NINE FA Cup third-round commentaries this weekend, starting with exclusive national radio commentary of Aston Villa vs Liverpool on Friday