Jürgen Klopp has taken Liverpool to a final in his first season at the club after his side bested Stoke City over two legs by virtue of a penalty shoot-out at a packed and roaring Anfield. Joe Allen scored the winning penalty and gave his team a chance to win a trophy fairly early on in the season. January has been a busy and uneven month for the Reds, but there's still one game to go before February arrives.
Enter West Ham United. Slaven Bilić's side has already completed a completed a convincing league double over Liverpool this season, easily besting the offerings served up by Brendan Rodgers and Jürgen Klopp respectively. The game is Liverpool's ninth of a busy month, which incidentally begins and ends against the same opponents. Klopp will have to factor in a difficult trip to the Premier League leaders (you know who they are) on Tuesday, and truth be told, Leicester City are a bit like the Wu-Tang Clan in that they really shouldn't be messed with.
Steven Caulker is eligible for every competition bar the Capital One Cup and should make his first start in defence. Dejan Lovren should jump into the starting line-up, but Tiago Ilori could be an option if Lovren isn't fully ready to start. All the players who were on the bench against Stoke City should -- in theory with injuries and fixtures proving to be a significant concern -- jump into the first eleven. Divock Origi, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge (out for the next two games), Jordan Henderson, Jordan Rossiter, and Martin Škrtel are sidelined. Joe Gomez and Danny Ings are out for the rest of the season but will be back for pre-season.
West Ham should take the opportunity to secure considerable bragging rights with three wins out of three against Liverpool this season. Manuel Lanzini, Diafra Sakho, and Andy Carroll are all injured. Victor Moses, however, could make his first start this month after a couple of substitute appearances following his return from injury. Bilić has to look for solutions at right back after Carl Jenkinson -- on loan from Arsenal -- was injured early on in a 2-2 draw against Manchester City, ruling him out for the season. Sam Bryam -- a new signing and natural replacement for Jenkinson -- is cup-tied after featuring for Leeds in the previous round.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Randall / Caulker / Lovren / Smith
Brannagan / Allen
Ojo / J. Teixeira / Ibe
Maybe Liverpool will play 4-3-3 instead of 4-2-3-1, but Christian Benteke is certain to start. Although Klopp said that he'll field a young side, the team will probably be a mix of squad players and youngsters to ensure that there's enough experience to call upon. Liverpool need to rest players after 120 minutes and a penalty shoot-out earlier in the week, which only adds to the concerns surrounding injuries and a demanding schedule. Many players need a rest, and while it may upset some, the FA Cup appears to be the best competition to offer senior players some time off.
Nathaniel Clyne's injury and Jon Flanagan's exertions against Stoke should provide Connor Randall with another FA Cup start. There could be the addition of a senior midfielder to play alongside Allen, giving Klopp the option of taking him off for Cameron Brannagan later in the game. Perhaps the likes of Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent would prove to be more useful options from the bench, but that would mean starting James Milner or Adam Lallana.
West Ham should be expected to field a strong side, one that could cause further embarrassment for Liverpool. It would not be a surprise to see Brannagan and Ojo drop out of the predicted line-up for more experienced options. Liverpool can channel the spirit displayed in 2006's famous FA Cup final against West Ham to secure a place in the last 16 on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM GMT/12:30PM EST tomorrow, with television coverage on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Ultra HD in the UK and Fox Sports 2 USA in the US. Elsewhere, ESPN2 Australia in Australia, Sportsnet World and Sportsnet World Now in Canada, SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya, and Eleven Singapore in Singapore are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. Online streaming is also available with Fox Soccer 2GO USA in the US. For online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO and TalkSport Radio World
We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.