Aston Villa reveal 'significant' COVID-19 outbreak on eve of Liverpool FA Cup tie

By Sports Desk January 07, 2021

Aston Villa closed their training ground on the eve of Friday's FA Cup third-round clash with Liverpool due to a "significant" coronavirus outbreak.

Villa on Thursday revealed a large number of first-team players and staff are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

The first team did not train the day before they are due to face Premier League champions Liverpool at Villa Park and talks are being held over the scheduling of the tie.

"Aston Villa can confirm that the club has closed its Bodymoor Heath training ground after a significant coronavirus outbreak," a club statement said.

"A large number of first team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation.

"A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.

"First team training ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled.

"Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League."

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  • Klopp looking forward to reading newspapers again as he concedes Liverpool criticism has been fair Klopp looking forward to reading newspapers again as he concedes Liverpool criticism has been fair

    Jurgen Klopp believes the criticism that has come Liverpool's way in recent weeks has been justified, as he quipped he is relishing the chance to read a newspaper again.

    Liverpool have had an underwhelming start to the season and sit ninth in the Premier League following Saturday's 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.

    They bounced back in the Champions League on Tuesday, beating Rangers 2-0 at Anfield thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick and Mohamed Salah's penalty.

    Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor pulled off a string of excellent saves to keep the scoreline respectable, with Darwin Nunez frustrated in his search for a first Anfield goal, but the Reds got the job done with a minimum of fuss to claim a second straight win in Group A following their 2-1 defeat of Ajax last month.

    When it was put to him in his post-match news conference if Liverpool had used criticism of their performances as additional motivation, Klopp said with a smile: "I cannot wait for the moment when I can read newspapers again!"

    He continued: "No, I have no clue. The criticism was completely fine. We are not over the moon about our situation, let’s put it like this.

    "We've still been playing some really good games, it's not like [success] was 10 years ago. Champions League nights at Liverpool are always quite enjoyable, usually.

    "I don't think it had too much to do with the situation. I saw tonight a team fully committed, that's what I like about it."

    Captain Jordan Henderson, who started alongside Thiago Alcantara in a two-man midfield as Klopp tweaked his side's formation, told BT Sport: "It can be difficult. You try to not listen to social media especially when you go through a tough period as an individual or a team.

    "You've got to switch off the noise and focus on what you do day-to-day and stay focused on what we're trying to achieve as a team. That's not easy. It can hurt players at times but you've got to try and find a way to use it as fuel and energy on the pitch."

    Alexander-Arnold has been one of the players to face the most scrutiny, but delivered an excellent performance.

    His stunning free-kick seven minutes in opened the scoring and he finished with more touches (96) and more successful passes in the opponent's half (40) than any other player, while he also produced a joint-high four tackles.

    He has now scored more free-kicks (six) than any other Liverpool player since the start of the 2016-17 season, while the England international - who was left out by Gareth Southgate for the Three Lions' final match before the World Cup against Germany - is the first Reds player to net such a goal in the Champions League since Steven Gerrard against Basel in 2014.

    "It's a wonderful goal. What can I say?" Klopp said.

    "He played a good game, defensively especially. It is not that he has had a defensive problem it's that we have had a defensive problem, because our line was not right.

    "If the timing is not right, you open gaps and these gaps are very often on the back of Trent but not because of him, but because of the situation where we put our right-back."

    Henderson added: "You've got to give Trent a license to get forward and produce what he can produce up the pitch. I thought he was good defensively tonight, he did the basics really well. I didn't have to cover too much."

  • 'The gap is obvious' – Van Bronckhorst vows to learn after Liverpool defeat 'The gap is obvious' – Van Bronckhorst vows to learn after Liverpool defeat

    Giovanni van Bronckhorst says the gap in quality between Rangers and Liverpool was "obvious", though he vowed the Scottish Premiership side will learn from a comfortable defeat to the Reds.

    Rangers have shipped nine goals in three Champions League games after a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool on Tuesday, which saw Van Bronckhorst's side remain bottom of Group A at the halfway point.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah struck in either half at Anfield as Rangers failed to find the net in their first three Champions League games for the first time ever.

    While Rangers offered little in the way of challenging Alisson, barring a late chance for substitute Rabbi Matondo, Van Bronckhorst hopes his side will use the defeat as a lesson.

    "The gap is obvious, we are competing against one of the best sides in Europe – it doesn't mean you have to lose the game," the Rangers manager told reporters.

    "We competed well at times, set-pieces we defended really well. My team will learn from this game, I will learn, my players will and we will take this experience into the next game and also into the league.

    "It was an experience we had again in the Champions League, it is a league we want to compete in but it is really, really hard against the teams we are facing now.

    "It is experience, we did better than the first game but it is a level where you have to think quicker, pass quicker and move quicker.

    "There were many moments where we won the ball but then we lost it, that is what we are facing at the moment and we need to improve in the next three games.

    "The margin for error is very small against these great teams. It is everything you know, tactically, technically – first touches, movements, identifying movements when to speed up the games.

    "We are doing so much better and my team will only improve. If that is enough to go through in Europe then we will take it."

    A two-goal loss arguably flattered Rangers, who were thankful to the efforts of goalkeeper Allan McGregor after the veteran made eight saves during a fine individual performance.

    "McGregor performed really well, he can perform on this level – especially the first half he had some good saves," Van Bronckhorst added.

    "It was very positive to see his performance, also Leon King – an 18-year-old defender from the academy – and Ben Davies with his first 70 minutes of the season coming back to Liverpool he did well. There are always positives to take."

    Rangers will look to make amends against Liverpool in the return fixture next Wednesday, with Van Bronckhorst's side trailing third-place Ajax by four points in a battle for Europa League qualification.

  • Alexander-Arnold optimistic after downing Rangers but admits poor Liverpool start Alexander-Arnold optimistic after downing Rangers but admits poor Liverpool start

    Trent Alexander-Arnold acknowledged he has made a slow start to his season with Liverpool but remains optimistic for the remainder of the campaign after silencing his doubters with a great strike against Rangers.

    The right-back has come under criticism for his defensive capabilities amid an underwhelming spell of form for Liverpool, with Alexander-Arnold also unused by Gareth Southgate and England in September.

    Gary Neville hailed the potential of Alexander-Arnold, likening his ability to Cafu on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football, but detailed the defensive failings that are causing repeated problems for the 23-year-old.

    Alexander-Arnold responded by curling a seventh-minute opener against Rangers in the Champions League, though he admitted he has been out of form this term thus far.

    "No matter what I always try and think positively, people will say things but for me, it's about going out there and performing for the team," he told BT Sport.

    "Going out there, getting the wins and helping the team is the most important thing. It has been a slow start to the season for me, but I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

    "The performance was great from the lads, we never really got going on Saturday [a 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League], our press was poor and we were slow out the blocks.

    "It was the complete opposite today, we started well and continued throughout the game. They had their spells, especially in the second half, but we were outstanding."

    Alexander-Arnold's opening goal was his sixth free-kick goal in all competitions since the start of the 2016-17 season, with no Liverpool player scoring more times from free-kick situations in that period.

    "I don't normally score them from that side I usually go from the other side of the pitch," he continued.

    "For me, it was about getting it on target, when I am practising, rebounds and all that makes it the most dangerous situation."

    Victory kept Liverpool three points behind Group A leaders Napoli, who thrashed Ajax 6-1 in the other game on Tuesday, with a return trip to Rangers coming next week for the Reds.

    Jurgen Klopp's side must first visit Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday, with Alexander-Arnold relishing a busy schedule heading into the World Cup in November.

    "This year is going to be very intense. It's what we're used to, three games a week," he added. "There are no excuses. With the games coming thick and fast, it's exciting for us."

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