Aston Villa have been left with no other choice but to field their U23s in tonight’s FA Cup clash with Liverpool, following a COVID-19 outbreak at their Bodymoor Heath Training Ground. A large number of the senior squad have tested positive for the virus, with the first-team bubble set to stay away from tonight’s contest.
Mark Delaney will be on the touchline for the Villains while Dean Smith and his coaching staff stay at home for proceedings.
Derby County will also be fielding a side made up of their U23 and U18 players when they face Chorley tomorrow afternoon (12:15pm).
However, League One Shrewsbury have been given the FA’s seal of approval to postpone their tie with Southampton, a decision that has caused frustration at Derby.
The FA have ruled that clubs must field a team if they have 14 fit players to choose from, including those in their youth ranks.
Therefore Villa are having to make the best of a bad situation as they look to cause a major upset in tonight’s meeting with the Premier League champions, who they beat 7-2 in October.
Kesler was on the bench for Villa’s trip to Everton towards the end of last season. He is a regular at England U19 level.
Dominic Reven is likely to start at centre-back alongside Mungo Bridge, an established partnership for the U23s.
Villa boss Smith and his coaching staff are said to have high hopes for Bridge, who has earned rave reviews behind the scenes at Bodymoor Heath with his performances on the training field.
Reven’s younger brother Sebastian is expected to start at left-back, as he gets the nod over 16-year-old Ben Chrisene – who also could potentially start.
Aaron Ramsey is expected to start in midfield. But, no, not that one. He is the younger brother of Jacob, who has forced his way into the first-team picture this season. Ramsey can play as a No 10 or box-to-box.
Carney Chukwuemeka is one of Villa’s brightest youngsters and the 17-year-old has the ability to make a statement in tonight’s clash.
Alongside him in the engine room is likely to be Lamare Bogarde, who is the nephew of former Chelsea defender Winston Bogarde.
The defensive-minded 17-year-old is happy to do a job in midfield or defence and is a regular under Delaney in the U23s.
Tyreik Wright will be looking to give Villa an outlet and the winger is similar to Mohamed Salah in the sense that he plays on the right despite being left-footed.
On the other flank, Jaden Philogene-Bidace will be looking to impact the game with his dribbling and trickery.
The 18-year-old, who has scored five times this season has attracted the interest of RB Leipzig.
Up top, all eyes will be on Louie Barry who joined the club from Barcelona a year ago.
The young striker is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the Premier League at youth level and he has seven goals in 11 appearances to his name for the academy.
Potential Aston Villa U23 line-up vs Liverpool (4-5-1): Onodi; Kesler, Reven, Bridge, Reven; Wright, Bogarde, Chukwuemeka, Ramsey, Philogene-Bidace; Barry.