A striker from Barcelona’s La Masia, a forward tracked by Arsenal and Man City… and Aaron Ramsey! The youngsters stepping up for Covid-stricken Aston Villa against Liverpool in the FA Cup tonight!
- Dean Smith and Aston Villa’s first-team are isolating after a Covid outbreak
- But their FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool will still go ahead as planned
- Mark Delaney will lead a team of youngsters against Jurgen Klopp’s side
- Here, Sportsmail runs you through who could feature for the hosts at Villa Park
Aston Villa have had to turn to their Under 23s after their FA Cup clash against Liverpool was thrown into chaos after a ‘large number’ of stars tested positive for coronavirus.
Dean Smith and his whole first-team squad have been forced to self-isolate ahead of the huge third-round clash, with the club’s Bodymoor Heath Training Ground also closed.
But after the FA granted approval for the fixture against Jurgen Klopp’s men to be played, it will be Mark Delaney and a team of youth players who will take to the field if they all themselves test negative.
Mark Delaney (left) will lead out an Aston Villa side of youngsters against Jurgen Klopp (right) and Liverpool in the FA Cup after the game got the go-ahead
The tide has turned from just more than a year ago, when it was the Liverpool boss who was forced to field the youngsters against the same side in the quarter-final of last season’s Carabao Cup due to the Reds’ Club World Cup commitments.
But there is some undoubted talent among the Villa youngsters, including a forward who spent six months at Barcelona’s La Masia academy as well as a couple of stars who have made the bench in the Premier League.
Here, Sportsmail runs you through who may feature against the Reds on Friday evening.
Dean Smith and his first-team are isolating after a significant outbreak of Covid-19 at the club
The 19-year-old Hungarian has established himself as Delaney’s No 1, after his competitor Viljami Sinisalo moved on loan to Ayr United at the start of this season.
Onodi has managed two clean sheets from his nine games for the U23s this season, and has been capped for the U16s, U17s and U19s at international level.
He now faces the formidable task of keeping out the elite forwards available to Jurgen Klopp, such as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Akos Onodi has managed two clean sheets from his nine games for the U23s this season
Another regular for Villa’s U23s side, there are high hopes for the promising 17-year-old.
The right back has made nine appearances for Delaney’s men this season and has also turned out for England’s U19 side.
The closest he has come to making it into Smith’s first team however is an appearance on the substitutes bench for the 1-1 draw at Everton in July following Project Restart.
Kaine Kesler (front) was on the bench for Villa’s top-flight draw against Everton last season
Part of the Villa U23s squad alongside his brother Sebastian, the imposing 20-year-old centre-back is a senior and integral part of the team ever since breaking through in 2018-19.
That ever-presence has continued this season, in which he has played 14 times and even scored once against Norwich in a 3-0 victory.
He has also made the bench for the first team on seven occasions, but now faces the most daunting of prospects trying to contain Liverpool’s attacking flair.
Dominic Revan has made the bench for the first team on seven occasions during his career
A popular figure at the club, the 20-year-old has taken part in some of Smith’s training sessions since last year upon the recommendation of Delaney, and it is clear to see why.
Equally as adept at centre back as being a left-sided full-back, he oozes composure on the ball and has the ability to sweep long-range passes up to the wingers while also possessing necessary recovery pace.
Having previously been courted by AC Milan before signing his Villa deal, and – despite his skinny build – possesses excellent aerial presence to go with his technical ability.
He is certainly a player Villa hope will break through into the first team in the future, but after being fast-tracked into first-team training and being handed the youth team armband at some points last season, it may not be too long before his dream becomes reality.
Mungo Bridge has been courted by AC Milan previously and is excellent with the ball
Equally adept at left back as he is in central midfield, Villa beat Chelsea and Liverpool to the signing of the 16-year-old.
Since leaving Exeter in August after making his first-team debut for them last season, Chrisene has made 11 appearances for Villa this season.
And he showed his full potential with a fine solo goal which ended with a thumping driven effort on the edge of the box after a determined run forward in the 4-2 win at Chelsea in November.
Ben Chrisene can play at left back and in midfield and joined from Exeter in August last year
Villa beat a number of Bundesliga and Serie A clubs to the signature of the 17-year-old, who has made a big impression at the club since his arrival.
Capable of playing as both a centre back and a holding midfielder, it is in the latter in which he has largely excelled this season.
He has played 10 times for the academy this term and netted twice for the U18s against Reading and Tottenham before being moved up to the U23s.
Football is in the family too, with Dutch youth international Bogarde the nephew of former Chelsea and Barcelona defender Winston and the brother of Hoffenheim defender Melayro.
Lamare Bogarde (left) is the nephew of former Barcelona and Chelsea defender Winston (right)
Described by Villa chief executive Christian Purslow in March as ‘the best 16-year-old in England’ at that time, the now 17-year-old’s reputation at the club continues to swell after rising through their ranks.
A box-to-box midfielder who can use both his size and presence effectively in the final third, he has been a regular for Delaney’s men for 12 months now and has recorded two assists this season.
Involved with the club’s first team during pre-season as well as being an England youth team international, the midfielder signed his first professional contract in October.
Carney Chukwuemeka was described ‘as the best 16-year-old in England’ by Christian Purslow
No, not the one you are thinking of. But there are similarities in terms of position with his Juventus and former Arsenal namesake.
The creative outlet in Delaney’s side, Ramsey very much operates as a No 8 or No 10 and also competed in the pre-season friendly against the Gunners.
The younger brother of Jacob, who has gone on to feature in five Premier League games for the first-team this season, he is one of six England youth-team internationals in this line-up having received caps at U16 and U17 level.
He has scored three goals for the U23s this season against Norwich, Wolves and Burnley, with an assist also coming on his most recent outing against Fulham.
Aaron Ramsey is the younger brother of Jacob, who has made five first-team appearances
A left-footed winger who prefers featuring out on the right and cutting in, the 19-year-old joined from Lakewood in Ireland almost three years ago and has come to be a prolific figure in the U23 setup.
A Republic of Ireland U19 international, he has played 14 times for Villa this season, scoring twice and recording one more assist.
A keen Gaelic Football player in his younger days, Wright now has an eye for goal as has been shown with five goals from nine caps for his country, and is another who has partaken in first-team training.
Tyreik Wright was a keen Gaelic footballer before turning his attention to his current trade
The standout name in this side, Louie Barry is the prospect that has got Villa fans salivating at the player who could well form the heart of their future first XI.
Lured away from Barcelona’s La Masia academy in last year’s January transfer window just six months after joining from West Brom, Villa splashed out £1million on him and was hailed by Smith as ‘a bright young kid’ with ‘an awful lot of potential’.
Barry has so far lived up to the hype with seven goals from 11 appearances, including a last-gasp winner in the FA Youth Cup at Reading.
He made it clear that he was targeting the first team shortly after joining, and the 17-year-old, a Villa fan himself, is now in line to make that bow.
Louie Barry joined Villa from Barcelona last year, just six months after he had left West Brom
Hailing from London, Philogene-Bidace joins Barry as another member of the talented Villa forward line.
Plenty of suitors have been circling over the past year with Arsenal, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and most recently RB Leipzig said to be tracking him.
There is good reason for that too, having scored five goals from 10 U23s games plus two assists.
A nomination for Premier League 2 Player of the Month also arrived back in November, and should his development continue in a similar vein there may be a first-team No for him sooner rather than later.
Jaden Philogene-Bidace has been linked with Arsenal and Manchester City in the last year
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