Aston Villa’s Premier League fixtures remain in doubt

Villa’s Premier League matches against Tottenham and Everton today remained in doubt as the club continued to battle a coronavirus outbreak.

A general internal view of an empty Villa Park (AMA)
A general internal view of an empty Villa Park (AMA)

Bodymoor Heath has been closed since Thursday when it emerged 14 members of first-team staff, including nine players, had returned positive tests.

Further testing was carried out on the first-team squad over the weekend, the results of which will likely determine the fate of the Tottenham fixture, scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Villa are then due to host Everton on Saturday.

Both fixtures are at risk while the training ground remains closed, while there are obvious question marks as to whether Villa have enough fit, non-isolating players to make up a matchday squad.

Though Villa fielded a team of youngsters in Friday’s FA Cup third round defeat to Liverpool, there is no suggestion they would be required to do the same in a Premier League match.

Four top flight fixtures have already been postponed due to coronavirus this season, including Villa’s home match against Newcastle, following an outbreak at the latter’s training ground in early December.

Villa have remained in continued dialogue with the Premier League and Public Health England. The latter will ultimately decide whether the outbreak has been contained and if it is safe for Bodymoor Heath to reopen.

Under-23s boss Mark Delaney has, meanwhile, urged Villa’s youth stars to use the experience of Friday’s FA Cup performance against Liverpool as they look to take the next step in their careers.

With the entire first-team unavailable, Delaney took charge of a team of under-18 and U23 players in the third round tie.

The youngsters performed admirably, giving the Premier League champions a fright when 17-year-old Louie Barry scored to cancel out Sadio Mane’s opener.

Though Liverpool eventually pulled away to win 4-1, Delaney admitted it was a night on which the club’s academy could be proud.

He said: “It was an unprecedented situation. The players have to take real pride in their performance.

“There has to be an understanding there is a long way to go but if they produce an attitude, desire and work ethic like that they can go wherever they want to go.

“As an academy we have put in a performance. The players stepped up to it. At half-time we were well in the game.

“We were 1-0 down after five minutes and some people might have feared the worst. But the character of the boys, the camaraderie within the group, they didn’t let it faze them.”

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