4th Round. 10am EST, not on in the US. With no televised coverage in the UK either, there probably won’t be any streams either. So much for the magic of the FA Cup.
FA Cup run:
Liverpool: 5-0 Luton (h); 1-1 Luton (a)
Havant: 4-2 Swansea (h); 1-1 Swansea (a); 1-0 Notts County (a); 1-0 York City (a); 3-0 Leighton Town (h); 2-1 Fleet Town (a); 2-1 Bognor Regis Town (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Villa (h); 5-0 Luton (h); 1-1 Boro (a)
Havant: 4-2 Swansea (h); 3-1 St Albans City (h); 1-4 Bishop Stortford (a)
Referee: Phil Dowd
Guess at a line-up:
Finnan Skrtel Hyypia Aurelio
Pennant Gerrard Alonso Babel
A week ago I would have argued that playing Torres or Gerrard would be sheer lunacy. No offense to Havant -- I’m not suggesting Liverpool trot out the under-18s or reserves -- but those two are far too important to Liverpool’s season, and I fear the kicking the players will get.
But after another disappointing draw in the league, and all the continuing off-field "news," I’m not so sure.
At the least, I reckon Gerrard will start. He is the captain, after all, and if Carragher gets the rest he so deserves (with Skrtel hopefully coming in), Gerrard has to be on the field as the team’s leader. As much as I wouldn’t mind seeing Lucas in the center with Alonso, I fear the reaction should Liverpool under-perform without Gerrard or Torres in the team.
And I still think, despite the 17 goals, Torres will start on the bench. He’s someone who would assuredly be in for a kicking, and although he’s been Liverpool main (and at times only) goal threat, Crouch and Kuyt, the first-choice pairing last season, should be strong enough to get goals. Kuyt especially needs to have a good game and hopefully get on the scoresheet to reclaim some of the confidence he’s clearly lost recently.
But then again, Benitez has fielded a stronger team than I’ve expected in pretty much every cup game, both FA and Carling, so far this season.
Arbeloa and Voronin are assuredly out, and in Voronin’s case, that’s not necessarily a bad thing with the form he’s been in. His injury should force Benitez to play Crouch more often, which many have been clamoring for. We may even see Babel play some as a striker (please!) but I imagine he’ll be on the left here, as he was against Luton, because of Liverpool’s limited options on that flank.
The BBC’s piece featuring the Havant team is worth a look to see who’ll be coming up against Liverpool on Saturday.
I’ve said enough, probably more than I wanted, about off-field matters of late, and hopefully they’ll have little impact on the field tomorrow. And it’s not as if Liverpool doesn’t have to focus on the match ahead.
We’ve seen all the talk of the importance of the cups because of disappointing league form; a second FA Cup under Benitez, or at the least a good run, would be small consolation, but consolation nonetheless.
But Liverpool must still get past Havant, and will still have to fight for it every step of the way. This won’t be an easier match because of Havant’s non-league status; if anything, there’s that much more pressure because of the gulf between the sides. Plus, players may not be as focused because of their opponents (see the Luton away leg), and, with no offense meant, this will be the biggest match in many of the opposition players' lives. They will leave everything on the Anfield pitch, and it’s imperative that whoever is in the starting XI for Liverpool do the same.