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FA Cup Third Round Ties Expected to be Played Despite Covid Outbreaks

Organizers of the FA Cup are reluctant to postpone games even if a club wouldn’t be able to meet Premier League standards for playing due to Covid.

Liverpool FC v Shrewsbury Town - FA Cup Fourth Round: Replay Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Over the past month, numerous Premier League and Championship matches have been postponed in England due to Covid outbreaks as the highly transmisable Omicron variant has swept through clubs across the country.

Earlier this week, Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final against Arsenal was postponed along with their FA Youth Cup match against Burnley, and many expected their senior FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury on Sunday to also be put on hold.

However, it now appears all but certain to go ahead as the FA have come out to say that they do not intend to postpone senior FA Cup matches this season—that no matter how many players might be ruled out, the show must go on.

“Clubs competing in the 2021-22 Emirates FA Cup are expected to participate in fixtures as they are currently scheduled,” read a statement from the FA provided to The Daily Mail in response to questions about possible postponements.

“If a club does not have the sufficient number of eligible players available due to COVID-19, this should be reported to The FA at the earliest opportunity and would be referred to the Professional Game Board for consideration.

“Replays have been removed in both the Third and Fourth rounds of the 2021-22 FA Cup to alleviate the possibility of fixture congestion following several postponements in recent weeks and continued uncertainty ahead due to Covid-19.”

In the Premier League the standard is that teams must be able to field a side with 14 senior or “appropriately experienced” U21 players, including at least one goalkeeper, and that any less than that will lead to a postponement.

Such a standard is believed to have been applied to the postponement of Liverpool’s League Cup tie that had been scheduled for Thursday, with players who participated in previous rounds considered appropriately experienced.

For Sunday’s match against Shrewsburry, though, it appears that even youth players who have not participated in a competitive senior match this season would be considered appropriate for holding the game as scheduled.

For the Reds, that could lead to a situation where a reserve like goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga—assuming he hasn’t tested positive—could be pressed into first team action in order to ensure the match against Shrewsbury goes ahead.

There does remain a chance, though, that the three players who missed the Chelsea match due to Covid—forward Roberto Firmino, defender Joël Matip, and goalkeeper Alisson Becker—could be cleared in time for Sunday’s game.

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