Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Liverpool
| Monday, January 7th |
FA Cup | Molineux Stadium
7:45PM BST / 2:45PM EST
Liverpool are four points up in the league and, despite Thursday’s loss to Manchester City, are in the best position they’ve ever been in to win their first league title of the Premier League era. Plus they’re in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. And, as of Monday, they join the FA Cup.
For all that pundits like to wax poetical about the magic of England’s premier cup competition, the reality for the Reds is that it’s a distant third on the list of priorities for the club right now, and Jürgen Klopp’s lineup is expected to reflect that with confirmed starts for Simon Mignolet in goal and Alberto Moreno at left back.
There’s even the possibility that one of Ki-Jana Hoever or Rafa Camacho, a pair of highly touted youth players, will start at right back. Of the duo, Hoever has gotten more press of late, but there have been rumours a loan to Portugal has been put on hold for Camacho because Klopp needs him around for at least this one match.
Either way, fans can expect a very young right back and a lot of fringe players elsewhere, with starts for Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, and Divock Origi also expected—as well as one for Naby Keïta, who needs the minutes. At centre half, injuries may force Klopp’s hand, but if possible, Monday would be an ideal time to give Virgil van Dijk a break.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Mignolet; Camacho, Lovren, Fabinho, Moreno; Keïta, Henderson, Lallana; Origi, Sturridge, Shaqiri
On the other side, Wolves are solidly in mid-table, not in Europe, and will be out looking for revenge after Liverpool beat them in the league in December. They also have no significant injury concerns. It means that while Liverpool will be giving a grab-bag side the run-out, their opponents will be starting the regulars.
The most likely outcome might well be a disjointed Liverpool and an early exit from the FA Cup. Still, it would be nice to continue in the competition, if only in order to ensure some of those fringe players get more chances to play in the coming weeks in case they’re needed in the league and Europe over the final months of the season.
And for all that Wolves are solidly mid-table and will be able to focus on the game, they haven’t been at their best in recent weeks, with Liverpool’s victory over them before Christmas seeming to knock them off their stride. There’s a chance, then, that even a much-changed and disjointed Liverpool could steal the result.
Still, it will be hard to be too upset if Liverpool do in the end go out tomorrow. The manager and players would never admit it, and once the game kicks off every fan will be hoping for a solid victory, but at the end of the day the league and Europe are rightly what matter most right now—and the league in particular.
The lineup will reflect that. And if Liverpool go out, the shrug that greets it will reflect that. Anything beyond this one game in the FA Cup would be gravy.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “It’s a very important competition but we have to make sure we can play with the right intensity. For this you need—if you can do it—to make changes.”
Nuno Espírito Santo: “We know it’s a fantastic team and manager. It’s going to be very tough, we must prepare well.”
Kickoff is set for 7:45PM GMT/2:45PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, 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 the action as it happens.