With the festive period of the Premier League now complete, the Reds can at least avert their attentions to a less pressure inducing competition. As the reigning and defending champions of the FA Cup, one may feel that this Liverpool side will do all in their power to retain their piece of silverware. Given the situation on Merseyside and the fight it will take to finish in that exclusive top four group, this may be the best chance of a trophy this season. This game will probably more about safeguarding certain players, whilst making sure their league trip to Brighton on the 14th runs smoother than their previous away day.
Wolverhampton Wanderers come into this tie with two days less of a break (than the Reds), having drawn 1-1 with their local rivals, Aston Villa, last Wednesday evening. With a 0-1 home loss to Manchester United and an almost guaranteed 1-2 away victory at Everton in the lead up to this weekend, it is fair to say that the West Midlands club are also searching for some consistency. New manager, Julen Lopetegui, has this week bemoaned the lack of rest time his side will have had in the days prior to their trip to Anfield, therefore may use this game to shuffle the pack and get to know some more of his players.
On the availability front, Wolves will be without Francisco Tavares Oliveira, Pedro Lomba Neto, Sasa Kalajdzic, Boubacar Traore, and Daniel Podence. In goal we could see a cup start for Matija Šarkić, with most top tier managers often looking to give their back up keeper’s minutes in this competition. Their Portuguese number one, José Sá, is indeed availed for selection, though may be rested this coming weekend. At left back we should see the ultra-talented Rayan Aït-Nouri recalled to the first team, whilst Jonathan Castro Otto could come in for Nélson Semedo at right back. The centre back pairing of Max Kilman and Nathan Collins will probably retain their places, though Toti Gomes could come in for one of them.
The centre midfield group of (Liverpool linked) Matheus Nunes and Rúben Neves will want to start this game, as they continue to build their double pivot partnership. Just ahead of them, the veteran João Moutinho will surely drop to the Wolves bench, with on loan Matheus Cunha starting in behind a central striker. Raúl Jiménez, Adama Traoré, and Gonçalo Guedes will be hoping to come in for Diego Costa, Hwang Hee-chan, and the injured Podence.
Liverpool come into this game after a horrible showing against Brentford, which saw them lose 1-3 on their travels last Monday. The injuries continue to mount for Jurgen Klopp, who will now be without Virgil van Dijk for several weeks. Alongside him on the treatment table resides Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Arthur Melo, Bobby Firmino, and James Milner. Jordan Henderson should now be back in contention after a concussion.
Caoimhin Kelleher will come in for Alisson in goal, with Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip and Nat Phillips vying for defensive starts. Calvin Ramsey could be a surprise pick at right back, if Trent requires a rest from this competition. Andy Robertson should start ahead of Kostas, especially after the Greek international’s poor showing last week. The midfield should see Jordan Henderson start, with Naby Keita looking to make a first start of the season. Curtis Jones will likely play on the right of a midfield three, unless Stefan Bajčetić is preferred in one of those three roles. Up front will be a curious case of what is required, especially in terms of individual rhythm. Cody Gakpo will make his Reds’ debut at some point, with Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez alongside him. The full week rest before the next game may call for some solid minutes for some players, with next weekend’s trip to Brighton becoming even more vital.
As both teams fight to find their best form, this could be a very tough trip to Anfield for the talented Wolves. With some uncertainty over how, each manager will view the FA Cup’s importance, it does make predictions on the starting line ups tough. Both groups will be eager to get the win, though will also be looking to service the needs of their respective squads.
Anfield under their famous floodlights should be what tips the balance of this tie, especially with Klopp likely to field a strong line up. With a terrible display at Brentford still fresh in the memory of the German, he may just look to roll out much of the same team that capitulated last Monday evening. For Wolves, it is still a case of finding the best system under new direction, therefore they may struggle to handle a bruised and battered home team that will be desperate to make amends.
Player to watch – Cody Gakpo
Liverpool 2 – 1 Wolves