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Liverpool's Carabao Cup congestion: Aston Villa tie causing fixture pile-up

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Liverpool beat Arsenal on penalties in 10-goal thriller (3:24)

Liverpool outlast Arsenal in a 10-goal epic decided by penalties at Anfield. Watch the Carabao Cup on ESPN+. (3:24)

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has suggested the club could forfeit their Carabao Cup quarterfinal tie against Aston Villa if a sensible date cannot be found for the fixture.

Here, we look at why the tie is causing a major headache for the fixture schedule.

When should Aston Villa vs. Liverpool be played?

The game is scheduled for the week of Dec. 17, 2019. All quarterfinal ties will be live on ESPN+.

Why can't the Carabao Cup tie be played then?

Liverpool will be in Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup, with their semifinal scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 18.

- FIFA Club World Cup: All you need to know

Can't they play the Carabao Cup tie before then?

There is no spare midweek date. After the next international break, there is a Champions League round, followed by a full set of Premier League games, and then the final set of UCL games. That takes us to mid-December.

So when could it be played?

Liverpool are back in Premier League action on Dec. 26, after returning from Qatar.

The next possible spare date is the week of Jan. 7, which is when the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinals are scheduled. It seems almost certain that the Aston Villa vs. Liverpool quarterfinal tie will be played then, but the real issue is the knock-on effects for the semifinals.

When will the semifinal be played?

As the Carabao Cup semifinals are two-legged ties, it puts extra pressure on the fixture list.

The week of Jan. 14 is reserved for FA Cup third-round replays, so while the Carabao Cup semifinal first leg could be scheduled there is the danger Aston Villa or Liverpool are landed with yet another fixture. And then you would need to find somewhere to play that FA Cup match -- it could just shift the problem on.

The week of Jan. 21 has a full round of Premier League games, and leaves the semifinal first leg in the week of Jan. 28 -- when the second leg should be played.

So the hangover continues. The week of Feb. 4 is set for FA Cup fourth-round replays, so you are pushing the second leg to the week of Feb. 11 -- and that brings another problem.

Will the winter break get in the way?

The Premier League has created a winter break by splitting a round of fixtures in half. There are 10 games scheduled for Feb. 8, but half those games will move to Feb. 15 -- so all clubs will either be in the first or second week of their winter break on Feb. 11. Aston Villa or Liverpool, plus their semifinal opponents, would likely have to finish their break early, or start it late.

Klopp insists Liverpool will not play during their winter break period.

- Premier League winter break: All you need to know

Could a Premier League game be moved?

Again, this just moves the problem onto another competition. For instance, there is little chance the New Year games of Burnley v Villa and Sheffield United vs. Liverpool would be rearranged so the quarterfinal could be played before the scheduled date of the semifinal first leg.

Liverpool already have to find a new date for their game against West Ham, which was scheduled for Dec. 21, and the two Carabao Cup finalists will have to move their games scheduled for Feb. 29.

Could they make the semifinal one-legged?

No, they will almost certainly still play two games, with both semifinals being the same format.

What is the most likely fix?

The first feasible date for Aston Villa vs. Liverpool is Jan. 7 or 8. It will be known a few days beforehand if either team OR the other semifinalist would require an FA Cup replay. If neither semifinalist needs a replay, then the semifinal first leg could be played on Jan. 14 or 15 (the dates reserved for those FA Cup games). That then gets the Carabao Cup back on track, with the semifinal second leg the week of Jan. 28 as planned.

One additional issue is if Aston Villa or Liverpool are drawn at home in the first leg of the semifinal, as it poses logistical problems with matters such as policing at such short notice.

SCENARIO 1 (most likely)
Jan. 4 - FA Cup third round
Jan. 7 - Aston Villa vs. Liverpool quarterfinal
Jan. 11 - Premier League games
Jan. 14 - Aston Villa or Liverpool Carabao Cup semi leg 1 (if no FA Cup replay needed)
Jan. 18 - Premier League games
Jan. 21 - Premier League games
Jan. 25 - FA Cup fourth round
Jan. 28 - Aston Villa or Liverpool Carabao Cup semi leg 2
Feb. 1 - Premier League games

However, if the winners of the quarterfinal tie do need an FA Cup replay on the week of Jan. 14, it gets messy again.

SCENARIO 2
Jan. 4 - FA Cup third round
Jan. 7 - Aston Villa vs. Liverpool quarterfinal
Jan. 11 - Premier League games
Jan. 14 - FA Cup replays
Jan. 18 - Premier League games
Jan. 21 - Premier League games
Jan. 25 - FA Cup fourth round
Jan. 28 - Aston Villa or Liverpool Carabao Cup semi leg 1
Feb. 1 - Premier League games
Feb. 4 - FA Cup replays
Feb. 8 - Premier League games (Aston Villa and Liverpool play this date)
Feb. 11 - Aston Villa or Liverpool Carabao Cup semi leg 2
Feb. 15 - Winter break for Aston Villa and Liverpool
Feb. 22 - Premier League games

One problem with Scenario 2 is if UEFA schedules Liverpool to play a Champions League round-of-16 tie on Feb. 18 or 19, essentially truncating the club's winter break further. The weeks of Feb. 18 and Feb. 25 are reserved for European football, though Aston Villa could technically play as long as they are not drawn against one of the Manchester clubs. Also, the final is on Sunday, March 1 and will not move.

SCENARIO 3
Jan. 4 - FA Cup third round
Jan. 7 - Aston Villa vs. Liverpool quarterfinal
Jan. 11 - Premier League games
Jan. 14 - Aston Villa or Liverpool Carabao Cup semi leg 1 (possible FA Cup replay clash)
Jan. 18 - Premier League games
Jan. 21 - Premier League games
Jan. 25 - FA Cup fourth round
Jan. 28 - Aston Villa or Liverpool Carabao Cup semi leg 2
Feb. 1 - Premier League games
Feb. 4 - FA Cup replays
Feb. 8 - Premier League games (no pressure on Aston Villa and Liverpool play this date or Feb. 15)

Could Liverpool really forfeit the game?

It's very unlikely, even if Klopp said "if they don't find a place for us -- an appropriate place -- not 3 a.m. on Christmas Day, then we don't play it." It should be taken more as a tactic by Klopp to avoid being forced to play games close together.

A statement from the EFL read: "The EFL is in discussions with Liverpool to identify an alternative date given the club's participation in the FIFA Club World Cup competition."

If Liverpool don't play Aston Villa, who does?

Aston Villa would go straight through to the semifinals. Arsenal, who lost to Liverpool in the fifth round, would not re-enter the competition.

What would happen if Liverpool were to forfeit the game?

Liverpool would be charged with misconduct and likely face a heavy fine, but even considering the fixture congestion it would not be a good look for the club to pull out at the quarterfinal stage.

They could not be docked Premier League points.

What about playing a youth team against Aston Villa?

There is the chance Liverpool could attempt to fulfil the fixture this way on the scheduled date, but this again is unlikely.

Weren't Man United allowed to pull out of the FA Cup though?

Yes, they did not take part in the FA Cup in 1999-2000 because they were in the FIFA Club World Championship. This was a bigger tournament than the Club World Cup, and involved United playing potentially four games (Liverpool will play two in Qatar).

However, it was prearranged that United would not take part in the FA Cup, partly to try and help England's bid to host the 2006 World Cup. At no stage did they enter the FA Cup in 1999-2000.

The difference here is that Liverpool have entered the EFL Cup and are expected to honour their fixtures.