To say that Liverpool are wounded is an understatement. Talks of a crisis may yet be premature, but there are certainly chinks in the armour that Jurgen Klopp needs to rectify as soon as he possibly can.
They welcome a Wolverhampton Wanderers side who have blown hot and cold recently. They beat Stoke in the previous round of the FA Cup, and followed that up by beating Aston Villa in the Championship. But their most recent game was a 3-1 defeat against Norwich City. Wolves currently sit 18th in the second tier of English football.
Match: Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Date: Saturday, 28th January
Time: 12:30 BST
In one word, Liverpool’s form can well and truly be described as wretched. The Reds have one win in 7 games in January, and that was a laborious 1-0 win over Plymouth Argyle of League Two.
But more than the results, the levels of performances that Liverpool have dished out have been alarming.
The defence has been leaky. The midfield has looked leggy. The attackers have looked bereft of ideas. In many ways, the only player who can come out of this month with any kind of credit are the two goalkeepers – both Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet have pushed each other and put in some good performances.
Wolves aren’t in particularly high-flying form either. They are in the lower echelons of the Championship. But they cannot be taken lightly, as they proved in the previous round with a 2-0 away win against Stoke City.
With a massive Premier League clash against Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday night, Klopp is expected to give the regular first-teamers a break for this one. That would mean more time on the pitch for some youngsters who have been hugely impressive this season.
Daniel Sturridge misfired in the EFL Cup semi-final against Southampton, but with Roberto Firmino expected to be back in the no. 9 role against Chelsea, Sturridge could well start this one.
Whether Nathaniel Clyne is fit or not, it would be foolish to risk him for this game. That would mean another outing for the impressive Trent Alexander-Arnold.
For Wolves, one player to watch out for will be Conor Coady. The young Scouser barely featured for the Reds’ first-team in his time at the club, but captained the club at various age-groups. He will be looking to prove to everyone at Liverpool that he is a much-improved player now.
Predicted Liverpool XI (4-2-3-1): Loris Karius, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Lucas Leiva, Kevin Stewart, Ovie Ejaria, Ben Woodburn, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge
Predicted Wolves XI (4-2-3-1): Andy Lonergan, Dominic Iorfa, Mike Williamson, Danny Batth, Matt Doherty, David Edwards, Conor Coady, Helder Costa, Joe Mason, Ivan Cavaleiro, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson
WHEN THEY LAST MET
The two sides last met in the Premier League in January 2012 at Molineux. The Reds won 3-0, with goals from Andy Carroll, Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt. It was a wretched season for both clubs at that point. Liverpool finished 8th in the league, and Wolves were relegated. Wolves have endured misery since then, as they even found themselves in League One.
- Liverpool have won their last three games against Wolves – two 3-0 away wins in January 2011 and 2012, either side of a 2-1 win at Anfield in September 2011.
- The game before those three was among the most infamous of the Roy Hodgson era – as the Reds lost 1-0 at Anfield on Boxing Day, on a day when the faithful made clear their contempt for Hodgson.
- Liverpool’s last three FA Cup ties have gone to replays – Plymouth this season, following ties against West Ham United and Exeter City last season.
PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 2-1 WOLVES
Wolves have not been consistent at all recently, and the last thing Liverpool need at this stage is a replay. But what will make things interesting is that Paul Lambert has historically done rather well against Liverpool. His sides have always been a thorn in the Reds’ flesh, especially at Anfield.