It’ll have been 14 days too long but Liverpool are back and Cardiff await in the FA Cup fourth round, with the two teams meeting for the first time since 2019.
With the international break over, it is straight back to it for Liverpool after a memorable January that saw two points pegged back on Man City and a League Cup final place booked.
Now, another route to Wembley is on the cards, but first, the Championship side must be taken care of at Anfield to keep that as a possibility.
Here are 10 key things to know ahead of the cup tie.
1. What shape are Cardiff in?
The Bluebirds are currently battling against being dragged into a relegation fight, sitting 20th in the Championship and nine points above the drop zone.
Since dropping out of the Premier League at the end of the 2018/19 season, Cardiff have since finished fifth and eighth in the Championship and have had three managers in that time.
Current boss Steve Morison was appointed in October after Mick McCarthy’s dismissal and has since steadied the ship with five wins and three draws from his 14 Championship games.
2. How could they line up?
Cardiff will arrive at Anfield without their top goalscorer Kieffer Moore after the striker left for Bournemouth in the January transfer window.
Uche Ikpeazu was brought in as his replacement, signing from Middlesbrough, and he made an instant impact on his debut against Barnsley, scoring the winner from the bench on Wednesday.
However, the forward is cup-tied along with Alfie Doughty, Cody Drameh and Max Watters.
Centre-back Sean Morrison is injured and both Curtis Nelson and Joe Ralls are doubts, with Morison set to turn to youth.
Man City youngster Tommy Doyle has proven an impressive addition in the winter window and will be expected to feature on Sunday.
Possible Cardiff XI: Smithies; McGuinness, Flint, Denham; Ng, Doyle, Vaulks, Pack, Brown; Hugill, Davies
3. Any outs for Liverpool?
For a considerable time, it was easier to say who was not available as opposed to who was, but that’s not the case this time around. Hallelujah!
In fact, Jurgen Klopp could have the entirety of his squad to select from with the exception of Divock Origi, who has only just returned from a long-term knee injury, and Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane due to AFCON.
With Harvey Elliott and Thiago making successful returns to team training they will provide a welcome boost to the midfield, while Luis Diaz adds another name to the list of options in attack.
However, a chest infection could limit Thiago‘s involvement.
The newest signing is likely to come off the bench if at all, with Diaz only meeting his new teammates and training for the first time on Friday.
4. Predicting the Reds’ XI
With the wealth of options available, it’s a welcome headache for the boss, but it’s likely to see him settle on a team mixed with regular senior faces and those pushing for minutes.
With this the first game back from the break and big games on the horizon, it is the ideal chance for the Reds to find their rhythm and momentum once more in a less pressurised fixture.
And as Fabinho and Alisson both took part in international games over the last week they could be afforded extra time to recharge, as too Takumi Minamino.
Possible Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Konate, Tsimikas; Morton, Jones, Keita; Gordon, Jota, Firmino
5. Our new No. 23
Diaz’s arrival was officially confirmed last week to much excitement after the club moved quickly to secure their target.
The new No. 23 has only just arrived on Merseyside and, of course, there were plenty of questions directed Klopp’s way regarding his new threat in the attack:
“Luis, so let me say it like this, if he would now come, step on the pitch and would be immediately at his absolute best and playing better than all others, that would be really strange.
“Because we [as a squad] worked together for a while, that needs time, of course, that he adapts to it.
“But that doesn’t mean I don’t speak about [him for] four or five months or whatever.”
6. Golden goals
There are players in every team who you feel like if they score, the team is bound to win, and that is true for two Reds – they just might not be who you think of straight away.
Virgil van Dijk has scored 13 goals for Liverpool and Naby Keita has 10, and in the respective games in which they’ve each found the net the Reds have won.
Not that they’re just unbeaten, but have walked away with the win. And according to Opta’s Michael Reid, “no player has scored in more games for Liverpool while winning 100% of them.”
Can they score in every game from now?
Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, Klopp reflected on the “massive” opportunity to make it two Wembley finals this season:
“I cannot say more, we are not the most successful FA Cup team – at least as long as I’m here! So we are quite ambitious.”
8. Did you know?
This is the sixth time under Klopp that Liverpool have reached the fourth round of the FA Cup, but they have then gone on to reach the next round only once.
That was in season 2019/20, and Chelsea would subsequently knock the Reds out in the fifth round – ensuring there is a run to be broken this season.
The FA Cup has not always come at the right time for Liverpool to challenge, but a boost in numbers and a kind draw puts Klopp’s side in good stead to go deep into the competition this season.
But Cardiff must first be overcome.
9. The man in the middle
It is Andrew Madley in charge of Sunday’s game, a referee who has overseen Liverpool twice this season – against Crystal Palace at Anfield and Leicester in the League Cup.
Both ended in a win for the Reds and with an average of two yellow cards per game – time to make that three wins this season Mr Madley?
And in the VAR booth is Darren England.
10. How to tune in?
It’s a welcome change of pace this time around with the match to be shown on free-to-air television in the UK, with ITV holding the rights for the 12pm kickoff. Coverage starts at 11.15am.
But if you’re in the mood for unabashedly biased commentary, then This Is Anfield’s live blog is for you, Dan Clubbe is to take you through all the buildup and live action.