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Rotate or full-strength? – Debating Liverpool’s FA Cup approach vs. Man United

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Liverpool turn their attention to the FA Cup on Sunday with Man United the opposition, but how should Jurgen Klopp approach the fourth round tie?

The Reds put Premier League action to one side this weekend to focus on domestic cup exploits, a tie which comes at a time when Liverpool have won only one of their last six games in all competitions.

The fact that the opposition is Man United does throw up a conundrum or two in regards to team selection, especially at a time when form is on a downward spiral.

It leaves Klopp with a number of decisions on his hands with this game preceding a testing run of fixtures both in the league and in Europe.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_), Josh Feehily (@jpflfc) and Tommy Lister (@TLister77) discuss how the Reds should approach the tie and their preferred XI.

 

How strong should the Reds go on Sunday, is it time for rotation?

JOSH: It’s an opportunity I’ve longed for, for us to win the FA Cup but difficult draws have proved to be too much of a hurdle. There’s nothing better than a Wembley trip in May.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 14, 2012: Liverpool supporters celebrate their side's 2-1 victory over Everton during the FA Cup Semi-Final match at Wembley. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It has to be a game that’s taken seriously, not just because we want to win the cup, but because clipping United’s wings and wiping the smug grin off Solskjaer’s face is an absolute must with the way everything is shaping up.

Whilst I wouldn’t expect our strongest side to play, there will be plenty of first-team experience lining up, I’m sure of that. Klopp is well known for playing players into form rather than giving them the cold shoulder, so he may well avoid wholesale changes and I would agree wholeheartedly.

Going strong is the only way we can beat them, it’s a game we all look towards with dread. It’s always a war of attrition at Old Trafford, and edging one of those out this time around wouldn’t just send us through, but it would also stand us in good stead for a nail-biting few months in the season.

TOMMY: Given the results and performances we’re seeing at the moment, it is vital we progress in the FA Cup, things always look much better at the end of the season with silverware, and with the title running away from us it’s a must we do well in the cups.

Picking a side for the upcoming game against Manchester United is made incredibly hard by the fact we face Spurs again midweek, however, given our current league position I’d rather see a strong starting XI in the cup.

It’s come at the worst time for us really but it’s a must-win game. I’d imagine Klopp already has an XI in mind consisting of the likes of Kelleher, Williams, Tsimikas and Minamino as rotation, unfortunately, will be necessary.

Although those plans could be ditched considering the opponents. Most importantly, I hope the team isn’t too weak as the game is so meaningful in our current situation.

JOANNA: A cup run to supplement the league and Champions League was something I’d hoped for at the start of the season, but I ought to have known the draw would not be in our favour.

Wholesale changes would have been afoot had another team been the opposition, but the fact that it is United ensures it cannot be viewed as simply as a cup tie and our form dictates that a response is needed.

That would suggest, as the guys have said, that a strong lineup is in order albeit with a degree of rotation such is the busy fixture list we find ourselves in the middle of.

As we are in a slump a balance needs to be struck as to not provide further blows to the team’s confidence, while also having the potential to act as the starting point to pick up the pieces.

A win would add another game to the schedule but it would also mean we have found the net, and I’ll take that.

 

What starting XI would you want to see?

JOSH: I’d go with: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Williams, Robertson; Thiago, Shaqiri, Jones; Salah, Mane, Minamino

I think this is a perfect blend of first-team regulars and fringe players needing minutes.

Giving Fabinho a break at centre-back is a must as he is the more durable out of him and Matip, whilst Rhys Williams needs more experience against top-quality players if he’s needed later on in the season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 16, 2020: Liverpool's Rhys Williams (L) and Curtis Jones (R) during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Klopp is going to persist with Shaqiri as a deeper-lying midfielder, then more minutes against a good United side will be incredibly useful. Curtis Jones has been sidelined in recent weeks and this is a perfect opportunity to continue his development, and playing with Thiago can only be beneficial to him.

Salah and Mane are two that need to play their way out of a funk and there’s no better time to do it (please, we beg you!).

Minamino’s recent exclusion has been puzzling after an excellent performance at Crystal Palace, and with Firmino playing terribly, Minamino definitely deserves a chance in a big game like this.

TOMMY: I expect: Kelleher; Neco, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Jones, Milner; Salah, Mane, Minamino

Trent is massively out of form and likely to be rested and with him dropped we can’t risk both of the fullbacks not playing and Robbo has been arguably our best player this season, so he has to play at Old Trafford.

Hopefully, the skipper will be back, but if not Wijnaldum to operate in the No. 6 role and Jones will get up for this kind of game, while Milner offers experience and allows Thiago to be rested for Spurs.

And Firmino’s form is concerning and Minamino deserves a chance.

JOANNA: My choice isn’t too different: Alisson; Trent, Matip, R. Williams, Tsimikas; Thiago, Milner, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Minamino

There will surely be a change in every department and I’ve thought along similar lines with Tommy that one of the regular full-backs will remain as the other switches out.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 13, 2020: Liverpool's substitute Takumi Minamino during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s a risk to play Matip and Spurs is the more important of the two games, but I wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable with Phillips and R. Williams starting together and Fabinho does need a rest.

James Milner can add the voice of leadership we missed against Burnley and it’s time for Curtis Jones to reemerge, and surely this is the time for Minamino to be given another shot – if not, you do start to wonder what is going on there.

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