There are two all-Premier League FA Cup third round ties on Friday – although there will be plenty of youth on show at Villa Park when Aston Villa face Liverpool.
A Covid-19 outbreak this week has forced the Villans into closing their training ground and with several first-team players and staff members affected, the Midlanders are set to field an Under-23 side against the Reds, who are likely to play a mixed side of fringe players and some youngsters themselves
Villa U23s get Chance to Impress
The clash was in doubt but following talks with the FA and both clubs, it has been given the green light and, with Villa playing their youngsters, Liverpool are huge favourites at
1/20 to progress.
In a strange role reversal, Villa have been forced to play their kids, just like Liverpool were when the two sides met in the League Cup in December 2019. On that occasion, Jurgen Klopp’s first-team stars were away in Qatar winning the Club World Cup.
Villa do have some talented Under-23 players like Mungo Bridge, Carney Chukwuemeka and former Barcelona youngster Louie Barry but they should be no match for the team Klopp selects with James Milner, Takumi Minamino, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi among those expected to feature.
The Reds boss could be tempted to turn to more youngsters than originally planned in light of Villa’s decision to play their U23s but with Liverpool keen to get back to winning ways following a run of two draws and a defeat in the league, a morale-boosting big win could be the tonic they need ahead of the huge showdown against Manchester United coming up a week on Sunday.
Changes Expected at Molineux
The other FA Cup third-round tie on Friday sees Wolves host Crystal Palace and both Nuno Espirito Santo and Roy Hodgson are set to delve into their squads with plenty of changes expected.
Patrick Cutrone and Morgan Gibbs-White could be included for the hosts after being recalled from respective loan spells at Fiorentina and Swansea, while Leander Dendoncker may also return after recovering from a recent knee injury. Nuno has confirmed goalkeeper John Ruddy will start in goal and Ki-Jana Hoever is tipped to come in on the right flank.
Hodgson is without several injured first-team regulars with Jeffrey Schlupp, Scott Dann and Gary Cahill all absent but Max Meyer might be given a rare run-out after failing to make a single appearance for the Eagles in the league so far this season.
With both sides likely to field weakened teams, it’s a difficult tie to call but Nuno has suggested he could select a stronger XI than first thought so the
21/20 on offer for a home win seems the way to go.
Nuno said: “We always go with the strongest team we believe. Our idea is always go with the strongest, (it’s the) best way for us to compete. It’s always our mindset.”
*All odds correct at time of writing