Football: 'No excuses' for virus-hit Villa ahead of Premier League return

LONDON (AFP) – Dean Smith says Aston Villa were taken aback by the speed of the coronavirus outbreak at the club but said there would be no excuses as they prepare to return to Premier League action.

Villa, who face Manchester City on Wednesday (Jan 20), have not played in the English top-flight since New Year’s Day.

Nine players and five staff tested positive for Covid-19 and the club’s training ground was closed.

Smith’s side, in 11th place, now find themselves at least two games behind the rest of the Premier League and four fixtures behind some teams.

“Experience has taught us that it can hit you very quickly, but I’m very thankful that our doctor was quick to deal with it,” Smith said on Tuesday.

“I’m not going to make any excuses – the players are ready to play. We are looking forward to this game and we don’t feel that we are handicapped.

“We’ll have had a three-day build-up for the Manchester City game.

“The first day was almost like the kids’ first day back in the playground and they were full of energy and enthusiasm.”

Villa fielded a side of youth-team players in the FA Cup defeat to Liverpool on Jan 8 before having Premier League games against Tottenham and Everton postponed.

They now face a gruelling schedule of six games in 18 days, starting with Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad to face Pep Guardiola’s high-flying team.

“The players that I’ve got here have got that hunger and desire to play football games,” Smith said.

“I’m sure the majority of them would admit that six games in 18 days is better than 12 days on the training ground.”

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