Cork duo Hourihane and Kelleher set to clash when Liverpool face Aston Villa

Cork duo Hourihane and Kelleher set to clash when Liverpool face Aston Villa

Conor Hourihane in line for a Villa return against Liverpool. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

ASTON VILLA will check on the fitness of Conor Hourihane ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup quarter-final tie against Liverpool.

The Bandon midfielder missed the league defeat at Sheffield United, but Villa boss Dean Smith is optimistic he will be available tonight where he'll come up against another Leesider Caoimhín Kelleher, who will be in goal for Liverpool.

Hourihane has been in and out of the Villa line-up all season, but nailed a stunning free in their last Premier League win, over Newcastle.

Facing a much-changed Reds team, Smith may feel he can afford to make changes of his own. With Jed Steer (Achilles) out injured, Orjan Nyland could start in goal while the likes of Ezri Konsa, Neil Taylor, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet, Jonathan Kodjia and Jota might also get some game time.

Striker Rhian Brewster is Liverpool’s major doubt for the clash at Villa Park.

Caoimhín Kelleher. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Caoimhín Kelleher. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

With the bulk of the first-team squad on Club World Cup duty in Qatar, U23s head coach Neil Critchley will take charge of a young squad including former Ringmahon stopper Kelleher.

Brewster, who has played in Liverpool’s two Carabao Cup ties this season, scoring a penalty in the shoot-out win over Arsenal in the last round, sustained an ankle injury in training, and will be assessed ahead of the game to determine if he will lead the Reds’ front line.

Meanwhile, Everton have confirmed Duncan Ferguson will continue as caretaker boss for the Toffees’ Carabao Cup quarter-final with Leicester at Goodison Park tomorrow.

Following the sacking of Marco Silva on December 5, Ferguson has been in charge for the club’s last two league matches — a 3-1 home win over Chelsea and a 1-1 draw at Man United on Sunday.

The former Everton striker has distanced himself from taking the job on a permanent basis, but he will be in charge for the cup tie against the Foxes.

See P39-46 for more soccer.

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