EXCLUSIVE : Premier League clubs must send a team to the FA Cup third round tie this weekend. This is despite Covid chaos engulfing English football. A surge in positive cases may mean that top league teams could rely on academy players.

  • Premier League clubs have been contacted by the FA to request that they field a team.
  • All 20 Premier League teams will be taking part in FA Cup Third Round action this weekend
  • Numerous clubs were affected by Covid, and many top players went missing as a result.
  • FA want to continue games even though it means that teams are full of academy players 

Premier League clubs have been told they must field a team for this weekend’s FA Cup third round games despite the Covid surge that has gripped English football.

Clubs were informed Wednesday by a letter that all clubs must fulfil their fixtures. Even if this means fielding academy players, it will ensure there are no delays.

Recent weeks have seen a number of delays in domestic events, mainly due to Covid cases from players and staff as well as the growing numbers of injuries.

Premier League clubs have been hit with a huge surge in positive coronavirus cases this week

Premier League clubs were hit by a massive spike in coronavirus positives this week 

A match in the Premier League can be delayed if 13 of their outfield players and one goalkeeper are not available.

A U21 player with sufficient experience is one who has played as a substitute or starter for a club during a competition.

Clubs have been informed by the Premier League that they will no longer apply their experience criteria for young players in this FA Cup.

To meet the requirement of 14 players, clubs will have to list any registered player in their club.

The Premier League sent yesterday’s guidance to all teams. It also stated that any player who plays in or is unable to play for the cup fixture will not be considered an “appropriately experienced” U21 player for high-flight matches.

This correspondence was seen by SportsmailThe following statement was made:

Manchester City, and their manager Pep Guardiola, are one of the worst-affected squads heading into this weekend's FA Cup third round ties. They face Swindon away on Friday night

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team and manager are the ones most in pain heading into Saturday’s FA Cup Third Round ties. They will face Swindon at home on Friday night

“We think it’s a good approach to help squad availability in January’s congested fixture schedule. It also helps preserve the League’s integrity while ensuring that fixtures are completed.

FA’s Player Accessibility Rule allows for high-flight clubs the possibility to send academy players into their match-day teams for this weekend’s matches to provide a break for their senior stars.

The FA is trying to prevent this scenario as it protects the integrity of their competition as well as its status as one the most recognizable domestic cup tournaments in the world.

There is also agreement within the governing body about the fact that the possibility of several postponements this Saturday will only add to fixture congestion heading into December, given the amount of matches already postponed.

If a club’s playing team has been severely affected by injury and Covid, then the FA might consider applying to postpone matches.

Premier League managers, like Tottenham's Antonio Conte (centre) may be forced to rely on academy players to fulfil this weekend's fixtures

Premier League managers may need to turn to academy players, such as Tottenham’s Antonio Conte (center), to fulfill this weekend’s fixtures

Sportsmail received confirmation from an FA spokesperson: “Clubs participating in the 2021/22 Emirates FA Cup will be expected to participate as currently scheduled.

“However, clubs that do not have enough eligible players due to COVID-19 should report this to The FA as soon as possible and it would be referred the the Professional Game Board to be considered.

“Replays were removed from the third and fourth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup in order to reduce the chance of fixture congestion after several postponements over the past weeks, and the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.

In line with Premier League and Government guidelines, the FA has effectively stopped using PCR tests. Instead, they heavily rely on lateral flow tests.