Match Preview: Preston (a) FA Cup

After two games in three days, Liverpool have six days rest before their next fixture as 2009 kicks off with FA Cup action at Championship side Preston North End.

Liverpool travel to Deepdale, and former manager Bill Shankly‘s old club for the opening game of the year which celebrates the Scotsman’s arrival at Anfield.

Shankly, of course, arrived at Liverpool in 1959 having previously made almost 300 appearances for Preston as a player. He went on to become one of the most legendary manager’s of all-time, building Liverpool into a dominant force domestically and beginning the bootroom legacy.

Lancashire club Preston have former Liverpool player Neil Mellor as their top scorer and are managed by Alan Irvine. They are currently seventh, just outside the play-off places, in the Championship, having drawn with Barnsley and defeated Derby over the festive period.

Academy graduate Mellor left Anfield for Deepdale two seasons ago after failing to establish himself in the first team, but famously scoring a stunning last-gasp winner against Arsenal and playing a part in the comeback against Olympiakos on the road to Istanbul.

Liverpool will be hoping to avoid the embarrassment of being knocked out by a Championship side for a second season, having been defeated by Barnsley at Anfield last year.

Rafa Benitez has returned to Melwood following a recent kidney stones operation and is likely to give Martin Skrtel a start after he recovered from a cruciate knee injury to make a sub appearance in the 5-1 win at Newcastle on Sunday. Striker Fernando Torres is also in contention to make his return after hamstring problems, while full backs Fabio Aurelio and Alvaro Arbeloa may also be back to fitness.

Steven Gerrard is expected to start the match following his arrest last weekend, with Benitez hoping to keep his mind on football. Torres is expected to begin the match on the bench.

Benitez tasted success in this competition in his second season at Anfield, defeating West Ham on penalties in the final in 2006.

TV: Live on ITV1, kick off 5:25pm (UK). Online streams will be available via our forums.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Squads: TBA

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