Liverpool open their FA Cup journey with a trip to Wolves on Monday night, with a much-changed Reds side expected at Molineux.
Wolves vs. Liverpool
Monday, January 7, 2019 – 7.45pm (GMT)
FA Cup third round
Referee: Paul Tierney
Liverpool’s heart-stopping Premier League campaign is taking a mini-break, allowing fans to get their collective breath back.
It makes way for FA Cup commitments, with Jurgen Klopp still searching for his maiden trophy as Reds boss and the club looking for their first triumph in the competition since 2006.
It is a crime that Liverpool have gone this long without winning it, going all the way back to Steven Gerrard’s heroics against West Ham at the Millennium Stadium.
Wolves stand between the Merseysiders and a place in the fourth round, just a few weeks after they were downed by Klopp’s men in the league.
There is no ignoring the fact that the FA Cup lost its spark years ago, but Liverpool will still want to win it, especially as the club hasn’t secured silverware since 2012.
A mass of changes will be made by Klopp in order to give key players rest, but a strong team is still expected, outlining the squad depth built by the German.
It is a tricky little outing, especially compared to the easy ties Liverpool’s rivals have been handed, but they should have enough to earn a replay, at worst.
As mentioned, a very different group of players are likely to walk out at Molineux compared to the XI that took to the field there on December 21.
Klopp has confirmed that Simon Mignolet will start in goal, while youngster Rafa Camacho could come in for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
Sixteen-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever, rated incredibly highly at Liverpool, may even make the matchday squad for the first time.
Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk could be forced to start because of a lack of centre-back options, but Alberto Moreno is in line to replace Andy Robertson.
Naby Keita, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri have a strong chance of starting; Fabinho could, too, with Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner all rested.
Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are expected to lead the line, with at least two of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah potentially given the evening off.
Nuno Espirito Santo has a fully fit squad to choose from, but he will also make changes.
Last 5 against Wolves (All Competitions)
Won 2-0 – December 2018 (Salah, Van Dijk)
Lost 2-1 – January 2017 (Origi; Stearman, Weimann)
Won 0-3 – January 2012 (Carroll, Bellamy, Kuyt)
Won 2-1 – September 2011 (Johnson OG, Suarez; Fletcher)
Won 3-0 – January 2011 (Torres x2, Meireles)
Away fans’ pubs: Truth be told, there aren’t many places for away fans to drink in the town centre. The Bluebrick literally behind the station does allow away fans in though, I believe, but is more of a restaurant.
One piece of advice for visiting fan: Rather than trying to drink in Wolverhampton, get the 15-minute train into Birmingham and have a drink there. There’s a much better selection of pubs.
Did You Know?
In the six seasons since they finished FA Cup runners-up to Chelsea in 2012, Liverpool have managed to get past the fifth round just once.
Brendan Rodgers’ side embarrassingly lost 3-2 to Oldham Athletic in round three back in 2012/13, before Arsenal dumped them out at the fifth round stage the following season.
The semi-final was reached in 2015, when a woeful performance saw Aston Villa prevail at Wembley, while Klopp has been knocked out in the fourth round every time as Liverpool manager to-date.
It’s fair to say the Reds are due a run.
Wolves – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 2-0 vs. Crystal Palace
Won 3-1 vs. Tottenham
Drew 1-1 vs. Fulham
Lost 2-0 vs. Liverpool
Won 2-0 vs. Bournemouth
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 2-1 vs. Man City
Won 5-1 vs. Arsenal
Won 4-0 vs. Newcastle
Won 2-0 vs. Wolves
Won 3-1 vs. Man United
Speaking at Melwood on Saturday, Klopp could not hide his admiration for Hoever, who could make his Liverpool debut on Monday:
“He’s one for the future, of course. But what we will do with him now for the game, I don’t know. He’s 16 years old, he turns 17 in a few days.
“If Joel and Joe would have been fit all the time now then probably Ki-Jana would not have been in training. Now he was in and still is in, it’s just a joy to watch him.
“[He’s] an incredible, confident, young fella and he’s really a good player on top. That we can see him day in, day out is really cool.
“For sure for the future. When the future starts? I don’t know. But he’s in, he learns a lot, he improves and it will happen automatically.
“It’s a nice prospect for the next month and years. I don’t know [whether he will be involved]. We will see.”
TV & Live Blog Info
Wolves vs. Liverpool is live on BBC One from 7.30pm (GMT), with kickoff at 7.45pm.
Chris Williams is in charge of our matchday live blog, which will be running from 7pm, with minute-by-minute updates during the game.