5th Round. 10am EST, on in the US on FSC
FA Cup run:
Liverpool: 5-2 Havant (h); 5-0 Luton (h); 1-1 Luton (a)
Barnsley: 1-0 Southend (a); 2-1 Blackpool (h)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Chelsea (a); 3-0 Sunderland (h); 0-1 West Ham (a)
Barnsley: 0-3 Plymouth (a); 2-1 West Brom (h); 0-4 Coventry (a)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a line-up:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Riise
Pennant Lucas Alonso Benayoun
I truly think Rafa would deploy a stronger line-up were the Inter match more than 3 days later. The domestic cup line-ups have been stronger than expected in pretty much every round, while (sigh), the FA Cup probably represents the best chance at silverware this season. It’s definitely the only real chance at domestic silverware.
But Liverpool’s still in Europe as well, and the game against Inter is going to take priority, especially when there are key players who could do with the extra three days rest.
Torres, Arbeloa, Aurelio and Hyypia, along with Agger, were back in training yesterday. It’s most likely too soon for most. Agger will miss the next two games as he gets closer to fitness, but there’s a chance Hyypia, Arbeloa, and/or Aurelio could go right back into the line-up with the spate of injuries in defense, as Skrtel picked up a calf injury yesterday and will be absent. If Hyypia can’t go, there’s a chance we could see Mikel San Jose, who was on the bench against Chelsea.
And unless Torres is absolutely 100% fit, he shouldn’t be risked for a start. Even without an injury I’d be surprised to see Torres start with Inter on Tuesday. But hopefully he’ll get some time off the bench (ideally with Liverpool already ahead) to get him some match action before Tuesday.
I’m hoping that young reserves like Nemeth and Insua are on the bench, but as we haven’t seen them in the first team yet this season (with stronger squads than expected deployed in both the FA and Carling Cups) I doubt we will tomorrow, despite the fact Nemeth’s been banging them in for the reserves. Like last season, I imagine players like Nemeth and Insua will get time in the Premiership late in the year, especially if Liverpool’s still in cup competitions. I do want to see the young players that Benitez has stocked the u-18s and reserves with get opportunities with the first team, but a 5th round FA Cup, even though it’s at Anfield, isn’t the best time for that.
Liverpool’s had an easy draw so far, but still made hard work of Luton and Havant at times, and Barnsley is a Championship team. I’m sure Benitez will try and keep focus on the match ahead, but Inter will certainly be lingering in players’ minds. But the FA Cup is made for shockers like this, and any team can challenge another on its day, as Havant almost proved last month.
For Barnsley, Lewin Nyatanga, Jon Macken and keeper Tony Warner (a former Red) are cup-tied, while the other keeper, Heinz Muller, is out injured. Luke Steele, just signed on emergency loan yesterday from West Brom, will make his first start for the Tykes.
Liverpool, despite not scoring against Chelsea, was far better than in some of the previous disappointing results, especially in defense. It’s imperative the team keep progressing, and return to playing the football that saw Liverpool win by margins such as 8-0, 4-0, 4-1, etc. Tomorrow’s game is crucially important, as Liverpool need to keep advancing in the FA Cup, but just as important is to have another encouraging performance before Inter on Tuesday.