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Replays return as FA Cup changes mean no repeat of iconic Anfield night

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FA Cup replays will return up to and including the fourth round for the upcoming season, the PA news agency understands.

Replays – traditionally a big earner for lower-league and non-league clubs alike – were scrapped for the 2020-21 season, which was heavily condensed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it is understood they will return to the schedule.

It is another step towards a more traditional domestic football calendar after the EFL confirmed on Tuesday the Carabao Cup semi-finals would revert to being played over two legs.

The FA had already confirmed that the FA Cup fourth round would take place on the weekend of February 4 to 7, later than usual because of the extra international break being held between January 24 and February 1.

European countries are not due to be in action during that international window, and it is understood the Premier League has earmarked the period to give those players not called up for international duty outside of Europe a mid-season break.

That means there will be no repeat of the situation which occurred in February 2020, when Liverpool were obliged to play a fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury during the break period, prompting the club to field an under-23 side.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Curtis Jones during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The FA Cup, like the Carabao Cup, faces a longer-term threat from the plans to revamp Europe’s club competitions.

The Football Association wrote to UEFA in March to express concern about the impact its plans would have on the domestic football calendar.

Its proposals to expand the Champions League from 125 to 225 matches were approved by UEFA’s executive committee in April, but there have been suggestions that aspects of the format could be revisited as part of a wider look at formats prompted by the foundation and swift collapse of the European Super League.

Part of the proposal included provision for four extra rounds of Champions League matches to occupy ‘exclusive’ midweek slots.

The Premier League has also lobbied for January to remain clear for domestic football only.

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