The FA Cup returns to Anfield for the first time since Stewart Downing sent the Reds to Wembley scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over Stoke in March 2012 as you should know Liverpool went on to play in the Final that year unfortunately losing to Chelsea.
The 3rd Round draw saw Liverpool paired up with Oldham Athletic for the 3rd time in as many years. Last season’s 4th round clash with Oldham end in despair for Liverpool fans as 6ft 6in striker Matt Smith made a mockery out of the LFC defence and sent Oldham into the 5th Round. Luckily for us Matt Smith has since secured a move to Leeds so he shouldn’t cause us any more problems (providing we don’t draw Leeds in further rounds) but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Oldham started this year’s FA Cup run in the 1st round overcoming Wolves 2-1 at Molineux. The 2nd round saw a clash between both of Liverpool’s opponents from last year when newly promoted League 2 side Mansfield Town travelled to Oldham. The match ended 1-1 with Oldham eventually progressing to face Liverpool after a 4-1 win in the replay.
Oldham currently sit in 19th in League 1 with only goal difference separating them from the relegation zone having not won in their last 6 league games, their last league win coming back in November.
After a pretty torrid Christmas week which saw Brendan Rodgers lose 2 games in a row for the first time as Liverpool manager, the New Year came and saw the first 2-0 win under Rodgers rein as Liverpool avenged the 3-1 defeat to Hull in early December. This result saw the Reds back into the top four.
The FA Cup could be an important competition for Liverpool this season as it will allow them to utilise the squad members who are unlikely to get much first team Premier League football. The lack of European football for Liverpool this season adds greater impetus to this competition. Although this could mean Brendan Rodgers tinkers with his team selection he won’t want to fall victim to another giant killing. An FA Cup run could also do Brendan Rodgers the world of good and perhaps win over some of the remaining doubters who see his lack of trophies as his major downfall. With this in mind I think Brendan Rodgers will opt for a mixed of youth and experience in his match day squad on Sunday.
I would not be surprised if Simon Mignolet kept his place in the team. The Belgian shot stopper has played every minute of every game for Liverpool this season including the Capital One Cup 2nd Round game against Notts County. Simon Mignolet has faced criticism after two mistakes in two games against Manchester City and Chelsea. Following the clean sheet against Hull on Wednesday I would be playing Mignolet in order to further his confidence. However if Brad Jones was to play a game this season (with Mignolet available) this would be the game.
It pains me to say this and the thought fills me with dread but I think Martin Kelly will start this game at right back. I’d much rather see him given his chance as centre back in games like these but with our current lack of full backs Kelly will fill in as Johnson is rested. Kolo Toure is my shout to be one of the 2 centre backs for this game, to be paired with Agger or Skrtel. After Toure and Skrtel’s last outing ended in a 3-1 defeat to Hull I would much rather Agger partner Toure for this one. What about Tiago Ilori? Well Brendan Rodgers has made it clear that he wishes to send the Portuguese youngster out on loan during the January window so I highly doubt he will start on Sunday. The left back position is the most interesting across the back 4. Brendan Rodgers made the brave decision to bring on 19 year old left back Brad Smith as a sub at Stamford Bridge. The young lad looked well out of his depth but could Rodgers be tempted to give the lad another opportunity against a lesser opponent. Aly Cissokho had a decent game against Hull on Wednesday winning 100% of his ground and aerial duels also obtaining at 78% passing accuracy so could also be in with a shout to keep his spot at left back.
Jordan Rossiter has appeared on Liverpool’s bench in the last 2 games and with Joe Allen injured, Steven Gerrard returning from Injury and Jordan Henderson reported to be playing at 70% fitness it has been rumoured that Rossiter could be handed his first start on Sunday. However if Henderson is fit enough to start he will. Luis Alberto is a player supporters have been crying out to see more of, as with Assaidi last season, yet Brendan Rodgers must be seeing something during the week which is keeping Alberto out of the side. I do believe he will be given a chance in this game as he did against Notts County and the Midfield 3 will consist on Lucas, Henderson (Rossiter) and Alberto.
Iago Aspas was given a chance to prove himself in the Premier League against Hull and although he put a shift in he failed to make an impact sometimes trying to do too much instead of keeping things simple. I hope he is given another chance against Oldham and sincerely hope he scores as it will do his confidence the world of good. Liverpool’s other strike options are very limited with Sturridge out injured and Borini on loan. Therefore I believe Suarez will start the game and Captain the side if Rodgers does not select Agger. Many fans have called for Aspas to lead to line so Suarez can get a rest however I don’t feel like Suarez needs a rest, there is a week between Oldham and Liverpool’s next game against Stoke which is plenty of time for Suarez to get a rest and with reports suggesting Sturridge will be back for the Stoke game, one more game leading the line will do Suarez no harm, it may also help him towards improving his already fanatical goal scoring tally. Raheem Sterling has been in great form recently and with Jordan Ibe injured Sterling will keep his place in the side for this game. Out of Favour Victor Moses could be given a chance in this game as the loanee from Chelsea looks to prove his work to the Liverpool crowd.
Liverpool should win this one comfortably, but the cup can be a cruel mistress as we endured last season, but that is the beauty of the FA cup and that is why it is most famous domestic club knockout competition in the world. Despite this and if my XI is correct and Suarez starts I’m hoping to get my £25 worth and going to go with 5-1 to the Redmen. If Rodgers does make several changes to the side a 2 or 3 – 0 or 1 win would be nice as long as we are in the bag for the next round and avoid a replay I will be happy.
Also a big shout for our 2nd Competition to win a 13/14 Liverpool Home Shirt SIGNED by Lucas! Full details HERE!