04 January 2015

Liverpool at AFC Wimbledon 01.05.15

3pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Previous Rounds:
Liverpool: n/a
Wimbledon: 1-0 Wycombe (a); 3-1 York (h); 1-1 York (a)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Leicester (h); 4-1 Swansea (h); 1-0 Burnley (a)
Wimbledon: 4-1 Exeter (h); 2-0 Portsmouth (a); 0-1 Mansfield (h)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Gerrard 7; Sterling 6; Lallana 4; Henderson 3; Balotelli, Coutinho, Lambert, Moreno 2; Can, Johnson, Lovren, Rossiter, Skrtel, Sturridge, Suso 1
Wimbledon: Tubbs 15; Akinfenwa 9; Azeez, Rigg 5; Barrett, Francomb, Smith 2; Frampton, Fuller, Goodman, Sainte-Luce, Sutherland 1

Referee: Jon Moss

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Rossiter Allen
Suso Markovic Borini

I have absolutely no idea how Liverpool will line up or who Liverpool will line up with.

Rodgers rarely takes cup competitions lightly. The FA Cup is a meaningful competition and – not to get overly and wrongly sentimental – one that Gerrard will want to win in his final season.

But Liverpool have to rest players. A lot of first team players. The league schedule demands it, the semifinals of the League Cup demands it, the state of the squad demands it.

And if Liverpool rest the likes of Sterling, Lallana, Coutinho, and Henderson – among others – I doubt that Liverpool will be able to stick with the 3-4-2-1 we've seen of late. They don't have the bodies up front, they don't have the bodies at the back.

So I'm shoe-horning an almost entirely new XI into the formation which seems most suitable for those players.

Make no mistake. I'm very much guessing in regards to both XI and formation and I'm probably wrong. Rodgers could well start in the 3-4-2-1, start a majority of first-teamers with only one or two rested (*looks hopefully at Sterling*), and I wouldn't be surprised. Or Rodgers could start the majority of the above XI, but replace Borini or Suso with Can and revert to the 3-4-2-1. Although I don't think that front three – specifically Balotelli and Borini – are suited to the 3-4-2-1 we've seen.

Long story short, I assuming Lallana's still injured and please rest Sterling. The rest? *Shrugs* Sterling's only 148 minutes from already reaching last season's total. He's a month removed from turning 20. You're going to burn him out. It's a question of when, not if. Otherwise, the staff knows much more than we do.

There's no "Previous head-to-head meetings" blurb in the above lists because AFC Wimbledon is not the old Wimbledon FC. AFC Wimbledon doesn't have Wimbledon FC's history, MK Dons doesn't have Wimbledon FC's history. That club – the club which memorably upset Liverpool in the final of this competition in 1988 – doesn't exist anymore.

That said, AFC Wimbledon is still Wimbledon FC. The club which shocked Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final. They'll know it. Liverpool will know it. And they'll want to do it again.

I can't tell you anything about AFC Wimbledon's style or players. If they line up as they've lined up in recent matches, it'll be 4-4-2, it'll be Shea; Fuller, Goodman, Barrett, Kennedy; Francomb, Bulman, Pell, Rigg; Azeez, Tubbs. Given all the pre-match press (for example, this), I suspect Adebayp Akinfenwa will start with Tubbs up front, having missed the last two games (well, missing one and used as a late substitute in the most recent) through injury.

They're currently 12th in League Two, having won promotion from the Conference last season, but having also won four of their last five games, including three of four in the league. They're right in the middle of the division in both goals scored and conceded. They are a mid-table League Two side in every sense of the word, and Liverpool should be able to beat them, no matter XI, no matter form, no matter that the match is at Wimbledon rather than Anfield.

But we said similar before Northampton in 2010-11. Similar before Oldham in 2012-13. It's the FA Cup and Anything Can Happen™. And it's up to Liverpool, whether staffed by out-of-favor players or the first-choice XI, to ensure it doesn't.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Akinfenwa and Tubbs. Double beast mode. Sheesh. Not sure who's going to mark those 2. Especially on crosses.

Maybe we should have Lovren man mark Akinfenwa. That way he'll be "pancaked" within about ten minutes for sure. Then he can do his trademark "Beast Mode on Slam" dance and everybody will cheer like in the video game.