News on Thursday that Aston Villa had closed their training grounds due to a first team coronavirus outbreak left doubts that their Friday third round FA Cup tie against Liverpool could go ahead as planned.
There appears to no longer be any doubt: the match will be played.
Aston Villa will field a U23 side, with coach Mark Delaney taking charge. Confirmation the match will go ahead comes after U23 players and coaches received a final round of testing to ensure the outbreak in the club’s first team did not extend to the youth levels.
That should ensure tonight’s match is safe to go ahead for participants on both sides, though the fact that Villa will be forced to play their U23s only serves to reinforce the idea that fitting the domestic cups into a compressed season in the midst of a global pandemic may have been foolhardy.
As for the first team outbreak at Villa, reports today set out some very concerning numbers, with ten first team players said to have tested positive along with four first team coaches.
And it’s hardly an isolated outbreak. Manchester City continue to struggle with an outbreak, Derby County will play a U23 side against Chorley due to an outbreak at their club, and an outbreak at Shrewsbury has forced the abandonment of their match against Southampton.
Given widespread predictions coronavirus would have a strong second wave, all of this seems entirely predictable, and asking players and clubs to play out a schedule that didn’t account or leave room for such predictable events is difficult to ascribe to any motivator but greed.