Aplazado el Aston Villa – Everton por coronavirus

El encuentro de la Premier League inglesa Aston Villa-Everton, previsto para el domingo, ha sido aplazado por la aparición de varios positivos por covid-19 en el conjunto de Birmingham, cuyo campo de entrenamiento permanece cerrado.

La Premier League señaló en un comunicado que un “número significativo” de jugadores y personal del Aston Villa permanecen aislados.

“Como resultado, la directiva de la Premier League aceptó la solicitud de Aston Villa de posponer su partido el domingo”, añade el escrito.

Villa, que ya tiene aplazados tres partidos, jugará contra el Manchester City el miércoles. El encuentro, de la primera jornada, fue aplazado entonces debido a la continuidad del conjunto de Pep Guardiola en la Liga de Campeones.

Otro, en casa ante el Newcastle, se aplazó el 4 de diciembre tras el brote de coronavirus en las ‘urracas’ y ha sido reprogramado para el sábado 23 de enero.

Fulham could step-in for Covid-hit Villa v Spurs – report

It is understood Fulham could play their rearranged Premier League match with Tottenham as early as this Wednesday, if Aston Villa are forced to postpone their game with Spurs due to an outbreak of coronavirus in their squad.

The Athletic reports Scott Parker’s side are unhappy about the proposal, as they needed extra-time to beat QPR in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday and are due to face another west London rival in Chelsea this Friday night, although pushing that fixture back to the weekend is also being considered.

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Villa were forced to play a number of U23 and U18 players in Friday night’s 4-1 defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup, after their first-team squad – which trains separately – was forced into quarantine following a number of Covid-19 cases.

As things stand, that isolation period is due to end on Friday, putting Wednesday’s home match with Jose Mourinho’s men in serious doubt.

As it happens, it was a similar outbreak at Fulham which caused their match with Tottenham to be postponed on 30 December, but the top flight strugglers have since returned to action.

According to The Athletic, Fulham’s squad have been instructed to prepare to play on Wednesday, but a final decision has not yet been made.

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Speaking after the 5-0 win at eighth tier Marine on Sunday, Spurs boss Jose Mourinho said he was expecting to play in mid-week.

“Noboby told me that I’m not going to play”, he said.

“We start to prepare for that game, and the same Tuesday unless someone tells us different.”

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“The Premier League has confirmed Aston Villa’s game with Tottenham this Wednesday has been postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak at the club. Fulham will step in to face Spurs instead, after their original meeting was called off due to a similar situation at the west London club in December. Scott Parkeru0027s side will now face Chelsea on Saturday, rather than the previously scheduled Friday.”

Villa's kids caused us problems, admits Klopp

Jurgen Klopp has admitted that his Liverpool side were caused “football problems” by Aston Villa’s cobbled-together team of youngsters.

VIlla had been hit by a total of 14 Covid-19 positive tests prior to the match and, with all of their first team squad and staff isolating, were forced to field a reserve side against the Premier League champions.

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Liverpool eventually emerged 4-1 victors but Klopp has admitted that the encounter was far from easy.

“The kids did really well – that’s good. We had football problems. We needed a little bit longer but then it was completely clear,” he told BT Sport.

“Problems in passing and moving. Too many on the wrong side of the ball – not enough recoveries of passes. We had chances and shot the ball directly at the goalie – we changed it in the second half.

“It was rusty but better in the second half. Against Southampton [1-0 defeat] from the first second they were more on the pitch but that was not the case today.”

Meanwhile. Villa’s goalscorer, 17-year-old Louie Barry, has spoken of the feeling of elation he had when finding the back of the net to pull his side level just before the break.

“I knew I had it when I saw it… the ball in the back of the net is proudest I’ve been. Family screaming at the TV. I was just happy to score – hope I score many more.

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“I was working very hard. When I celebrated everything came out of me. Relief. It was quite good.

“I’ve never been so proud of a team – from start to finish we gave it our all. Credit to ourselves and the club.

“I was cramping up a bit towards the end. You have to get used to it. With age comes physicality and good mentality.”

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Mané abusa de un Aston Villa sin jugadores del primer equipo

Había que comparecer. Así lo marcan la competición y un calendario de lo más apretado, pero se puede decir, sin temor a equivocarse, que la pandemia había arrebatado al Aston Villa cualquier posibilidad de clasificarse mucho antes de saltar al terreno de juego.

No solo por la talla del rival que tenía enfrente, un Liverpool que no especuló y salió con algunos de sus mejores jugadores, sino porque lo hizo con siete jugadores del filial y cuatro juveniles. El coronavirus, que ha infectado a nueve futbolistas y cinco integrantes del cuerpo técnico, le había arrebatado al resto de su primera plantilla.

Aun así, chapó por los chavales, que consiguieron mantener la muralla y la esperanza hasta la hora de juego por mucho que Mané ya hubiese adelantado a los reds a los cuatro minutos. El empate de Barry justo antes del descanso les dio esperanzas, pero, justo cuando el reloj marcaba la hora de juego, el tanto de Wijnaldum, que no hizo amago siquiera de celebrar, tumbó a los ‘baby villanos’.

Las siguientes dos ocasiones, como un martillo pilón, también entraron, y el senegalés primero y Salah después descubrieron, como tirando de una manta, la realidad de una plantilla que nunca debió jugar este partido, pero que, como tantas otras cosas que provoca la pandemia, no tuvo otro remedio.

Mane double lifts Liverpool past Villa's plucky kids

Liverpool eventually cruised into the FA Cup fourth round following a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa’s makeshift team of youngsters.

The Villans were forced to field a side largely consisting of U23 and U18 players after a significant Covid-19 outbreak ruled Dean Smith and his first-team squad out of attending the tie.

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Under 23 coach Mark Delaney oversee proceedings and he would have feared the worst when Sadio Mane nodded home after four minutes.

However, Villa’s kids grew in confidence as the game wore on and stunned the Premier League champions four minutes before the break when 17-year-old Louie Barry raced clear to level matters.

A strong Liverpool line-up were frustrated right up until the hour mark when three goals in five minutes from Gini Wijnaldum, Mane and Mo Salah broke Villa’s spirited resistance.

The home side’s youngsters will take much of the plaudits for keeping pace with the Premier League champions for long spells, but ultimately it is the Merseysiders who have booked their spot in the draw for the next round.

Villa’s Premier League fixture with Tottenham on Wednesday remains a doubt while Liverpool will be pleased to have returned to winning ways ahead of a crunch top of the table showdown with Manchester United a week on Sunday.

TALKING POINT

Villa’s kids are alright, but no surprise to see lacklustre Liverpool eventually seal progress. Once it was confirmed Villa would have to field a team of youngsters following the Covid-19 outbreak within the first-team squad, it was always going to be a case of just getting the job done for Liverpool and looking to the next game.

Villa had seven U23 and four U18 players in their line-up with the average age of their squad just 18 years and 294 days. Those who featured all gave a good account of themselves until the Reds finally ran away with it in the second period. There were certainly a few names to look out for in the future for Villa supporters who will be keen to see more of the likes of former Barcelona starlet, Barry in the months and years ahead.

It was a fantastic FA Cup moment to see Villa’s kids level but perhaps again highlighted that Liverpool could do with signing another centre back despite Jurgen Klopp’s claim they probably won’t. It’s not been a vintage period for Klopp and his champions. A three-game winless run ended here, but not before they were (briefly) left red-faced once again at Villa Park this season. The Reds are into the fourth round but will need to find some extra gears for United.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Sadio Mane (Liverpool). It would be all too easy to go for the romantic option and pick one of Villa’s young guns, particularly Akos Onodi who made a series of top saves. Mane edges him out for the award for a two-goal burst and a professional display where his team had to be very patient.

PLAYER RATINGS

ASTON VILLA: Onodi 8, Bridge 8, Revan 7, Walker 7, Rowe 7, Chrisene 7, Barry 8, Kesler 8, Sylla 7, Raikhy 7, Bogarde 7. Subs: Young 6, Lindley 6, Sohna 6, Swinkels 6, Rowe 6.

LIVERPOOL: Kelleher 6, N Williams 7, R Williams 6, Fabinho 6, Milner 6, Henderson 6, Wijnaldum 7, Jones 7, Mane 8, Minamino 7, Salah 7. Subs: Thiago 8, Firmino 6, Shaqiri 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Origi 6.

Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS

4’ – GOAL! – Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool. Mane breezes into the middle to power a header into the net from a right-wing cross.

41’ – GOAL! – Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool. Louie Barry is sent rampaging clear after bursting beyond Liverpool’s high line. He holds off Rhys Williams before coolly slotting beyond Kelleher.

60’ – GOAL! – Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool. Wijnaldum fires a first-time shot into the bottom corner after good work from Salah and Minamino.

63’ – GOAL! – Aston Villa 1-3 Liverpool. That will seal it. Mane loops a header into the far corner from a right-wing delivery.

65’ – GOAL! – Aston Villa 1-4 Liverpool. It’s four! Salah spins on to Shaqiri’s pass and rifles a low shot into the bottom corner.

KEY STATS

Since the start of the 2014/15 season, Sadio Mané has scored eight goals in all competitions against Aston Villa, only netting more against Crystal Palace (10) in this time.

Barry, aged 17 years and 201 days, is the youngest player to score an FA Cup goal for a Premier League team since Rony Lopes (17y 8d) in January 2013 for Manchester City vs Watford.

There were just four minutes and 20 seconds between Liverpool’s second and fourth goals against Aston Villa.

Shaqiri is the first Liverpool player to assist two goals as a substitute since James Milner vs Spartak Moscow in December 2017 (3) and Shaqiri assisted those two goals within 208 seconds of coming off the bench.

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FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES

Must the FA Cup show go on?

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Football has done a pretty good job thus far of pretending there isn’t a pandemic on. Quite literally in the case of the multitude of players who apparently believed that being good at kicking a ball and running enabled you to be exempt from tier four restrictions over Christmas and New Year. The Warm-Up must have missed that particular caveat in Chris Witty’s press conference.

Fake crowd noise has taken the edge off empty stadiums and only a handful of Premier League matches have been postponed up to this point. But this weekend. Well, this weekend could come to be seen as the moment when football succumbed to the ghastly reality that the rest of the country is enduring.

In the WSL, matches involving Manchester City and Arsenal have been postponed after Covid outbreaks related to Christmas trips to Dubai made by certain players. Must be nice to visit Dubai right now! When everyone else is being told to stay at home at all costs! Lovely!

And the FA Cup is in serious danger of descending into absolute farce. The wisdom of dispersing clubs from all leagues and regions across the country, while a new variant takes hold in the population, for a competition which could very easily have been skipped this season was already massively questionable. And things are just getting worse.

Southampton’s match against Shrewsbury has been postponed due to Covid cases at the League One club, but it is events at Derby and particularly Aston Villa, which are calling the integrity of the competition into question.

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It was made clear late last night that due to the Covid outbreak currently rippling through the Aston Villa first-team squad, the club will be unable to field any senior players at all for tonight’s third-round match against Liverpool. With the training ground shut and the entire senior operation isolating they have little choice. Even then, if the youth team bubble is compromised too, they will not be able to play the game at all. Test results are expected later.

“A large number of first team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation,” explained Villa in a statement. “A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.”

There is no real reason football should avoid the effects of the second wave when a new variant is careering through society in seemingly unstoppable fashion. The grim truth is that over 1,000 people died yesterday. London hospitals are close to being overwhelmed. Glaring government policy errors affect all citizens and even if football has strict bubbles during work time, players aren’t being hermetically sealed off from their family members who go to the shops, or to nursery. So as cases dramatically increase in the country at large and society locks down again, football has some tough decisions to consider.

Do you continue to limp on through a competition like the FA Cup, offering up the pretence that it is a viable event in a deadly pandemic despite mounting evidence to the contrary? Or do you take a simple decision to cancel it and give everyone a bit of breathing space? It would be of such huge benefit to Premier League clubs not to have to clog up their fixture list, especially those in Europe, that adequate compensation could be given to the FA and lower-league clubs.

With the fixture backlog as it is already – not helped whatsoever by the frankly unconscionable decision to pack in the Nations League and *international friendlies* this season – clubs are already facing daunting schedules. People are going to have to get creative and fluid with logistics at some point and start playing games whenever they can, even with two different XIs two days in a row perhaps. It’s not that unthinkable: Liverpool did it in November last year to satisfy fixtures in the League Cup and Club World Cup when no one had heard of coronavirus and The Warm-Up still thought Wuhan was a New York hip hop collective.

The integrity of the league has already been compromised to an extent with some clubs allowed fans in for periods while others have not, and if predictions are correct and the situation will only worsen for another couple of weeks, the next portion of the season could become a box-ticking exercise to protect clubs’ income and just get the leagues finished. There are clear financial reasons which make this an imperative.

But you can’t say the same for the FA Cup, and in such a context, it’s hard to see why it is honestly worth all the trouble. An irrelevance in a pandemic and, increasingly, a farce too, there’s no good reason to go on with this.

United sign ‘one of most exciting prospects in the game’

Amad Diallo

Image credit: Getty Images

A sluggish transfer window got a little kick up the bum yesterday as Manchester United signed prodigiously talented young winger Amad Diallo from Atalanta for a fee in the region of £37m.

Diallo has only played four times in Serie A and it looks like an astronomical fee, but that only really adds to the pure excitement around a deal like this. There’s little else better than your club getting its hands on a genuine wonderkid.

“As a club, we have followed Amad for a number of years and having watched him myself, I believe he is one of the most exciting young prospects in the game,” said hype man Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “Manchester United has such a proud history of developing young players and everything is in place to enable Amad to reach his potential here.

“It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition. He is a player with all of the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come.”

Gunners to lose Balogun?

But the wonderkid lord given, and he taketh away. According to reports coming out of, well, presumably an agent with an agenda to drive, Arsenal could lose talented young striker Folarin Balogun. It is suggested that he is close to agreeing a pre-contract deal with a big European club after growing frustrated at the amount of chances he is getting at Arsenal.

With goals against Molde and Dundalk already this season, Balogun has some leverage with Arsenal supporters and this has echoes of when it was rumoured Arsenal could be losing Bukayo Saka, only for him to sign up to a new deal. Oh, and they have the same agents. Funny that.

IN OTHER NEWS

A rare good news story amid the Covid chaos, as Chelsea once again respond to tough lockdown measures by making their hotel rooms available to NHS workers for free. Chelsea responded superbly to the first wave of the pandemic, restoring some belief in the fact that football clubs can still be community bodies, and all credit to Roman Abramovich for this.

HAT TIP

The defining motif of Neville’s coaching career to date is a series of doors being held open for him: a path that ironically enough would not exist for a woman of his equivalent talent. Still, in his inimitable capacity to keep falling into ever more lucrative jobs, Neville has demonstrated a defiance of meritocracy that will reward him well beyond football. Expect him to turn up as foreign secretary in about a decade.

Jonathan Liew is in searing form in this piece about Phil Neville’s next move in a career that seems impervious to the gravity of his lack of success.

COMING UP

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. At the time of writing we are expecting the FA Cup match between Liverpool and Aston Villa to go ahead so join us at 7:45pm as the third round kicks off. Or potentially doesn’t.

Andi Thomas will be back on Monday to pick through the FA Cup games which actually went ahead this weekend.

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Aston Villa will reportedly field a youth team against Liverpool in the FA Cup on Friday after a Covid-19 outbreak among the senior squad.

Villa closed their training ground on Thursday after a “significant” outbreak, with a large number of players and staff testing positive.

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There had been doubt whether the clash with Liverpool would go ahead, but Press Association and The Athletic say Villa are prepared to play a team made up of Under-18 and Under-23 players.

First-team manager Dean Smith will not be at the match and assistants John Terry, Craig Shakespeare and Richard O’Kelly will also not be involved.

Under-23s coach Mark Delaney, who played for Villa between 1999 and 2007, will lead the team.

The youth players and staff, who train in a different part of the training ground to the senior squad, have been tested and will get the results on Friday. If there are positive results then the game could still be under threat.

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The FA said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday: “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 will also send a youth team to Chorley for their FA Cup tie on Saturday after a Covid-19 outbreak but Southampton vs Shrewsbury has been called off.

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