Liverpool's exit in the third round of the League Cup back in September meant that it was Premier League or bust for most of the fall and winter, but tomorrow we'll finally get something different. Not that anyone's necessarily been clamoring for it; Liverpool's form in league has been excellent for most of the first half of the league season, leading us to disregard nearly everything else in search of a return to the Champions League in what's sure to be an exhilirating and terrifying final four and a half months.
So taking part in the FA Cup tomorrow has understandably paled in comparison to the prospect of once again competing against Europe's elite, and while I'd love to give a rousing introduction as to why Liverpool should be fully embracing the most romantic competition in the country, I can't shake the feeling that I just don't really care. I want Liverpool to do well and a win would be terrific, but my attentions are elsewhere for better or worse.
And if Liverpool's squad feels similarly to an idiot blogger, it wouldn't be out of the question to see a repeat of last season's failings at Boundary Park. The setup is similar enough, with Oldham flailing in League One, out of the relegation zone on goal difference only. They were winless in league during December and dropped out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on penalties to Chesterfield, but they impressed in a comprehensive 4-1 win over Mansfield Town in their Second Round replay after a 1-1 draw the first time out.
There's reason enough to expect that manager Lee Johnson will go with a full-strength squad, with three full days off since their New Year's Day loss against Shrewsbury Town and six days before they host Stevenage. Against Shrewsbury, he went with Mark Oxley in goal, Connor Brown, Jonathan Grounds, Genseric Kusunga, and James Tarkowski in defense, Kory Smith, David Mellor, James Dayton, and Michael Petrasso in the midfield, and Adam Rooney and Jonson Clarke-Harris up front, with Anton Rodgers--Brendan Rodgers' son--on the bench.
Kelly Toure Ilori Cissokho
Gerrard Henderson Alberto
Aspas Suarez Moses
There's a handful of injury concerns still to be addressed; Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan, Mamadou Sakho, Jordon Ibe, and Jose Enrique will all miss out, though there's at least returns in the near future for both Allen and Sturridge, and you'd expect that Flanagan and Enrique should be close as well. Sakho's timeline appears to be a bit longer, while Sebastian Coates remains the only long-term absence. When it comes to need for rest, the list gets longer--I would be surprised/enraged to see Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in the starting eleven, and Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, and Lucas are probably due a rest (as are most others).
Wholesale changes at the back are likely, though I think Simon Mignolet sticks around along with Aly Cissokho. If Martin Kelly is fit he should play, and the biggest question seems to be who partners Kolo Toure in central defense. This is the role that most had pegged for Toure when his transfer was announced, and if we're running with the savvy veteran brings younger players along narrative, I would love to see Tiago Ilori get minutes. It would be his first appearance for the senior side, however, and is more than a little unlikely.
Steven Gerrard very well could make his return tomorrow, and if he does I hope it's for 45-60 minutes at the start or something similar to what we got against Hull midweek. Jordan Henderson is the fittest midfielder in the squad and can do a job on short rest, while there's finally a spot that looks there for the taking by Luis Alberto. Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen, but it would make sense for the young attacking midfielder to get some significant minutes--and his first start--given the timing.
We've generally accepted that Luis Suarez will probably play every match ever, and if that's what works for him, great. Hopefully there's time for Iago Aspas in support, and with Coutinho and Sterling likely rested, Victor Moses should round out the attacking contingent.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST, and it looks as though LFCTV is the only option available for viewers in the US and UK. With these types of matches it's easy to slip into sharing illegal means of watching in the comments, so please remember that we'll have to delete any comments including such links that come to our attention. Do, of course, share any possible ways of watching or listening that are legal. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.