FA Cup: Plymouth v Liverpool Preview

Philippe CoutinhoLiverpool are staring an FA Cup upset in the face when they make the long journey to Home Park to take on Plymouth Argyle in a third round replay this midweek (7.45pm Wednesday, BT Sport 1).

Liverpool picked up a 1-1 draw in their last encounter at Old Trafford, taking the lead through James Milner before Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought Manchester United level late in the second half. It was a good result for the Reds away from home, although it means that their run without a victory now stands at four consecutive matches in all competitions.

It is far too early to panic, though: Jurgen Klopp’s charges remain in a good position in the Premier League standings, while they are also still involved in both domestic cup competitions. The FA Cup will probably rank at the bottom of the former Borussia Dortmund manager’s list of priorities for the season given that Liverpool are just one game away from the EFL Cup final. They will still be keen to progress to the fourth round and avoid a shock against their opponents from the fourth tier of English football.

Plymouth advanced to this stage of the competition by getting the better of Mansfield Town and Newport County prior to their backs-to-the-wall display at Anfield last weekend. Derek Adams’ men are also flying high in League Two at the moment, with just four points separating them from top spot as they attempt to secure promotion to League One (Argyle also have a game in hand on the one side above them, Doncaster Rovers). Returning to the third division will be their primary objective this season, but Plymouth would also love to take a major scalp and progress to the next round of the FA Cup at Liverpool’s expense on Wednesday.

Klopp will almost certainly name a very different starting XI to the one that took to the field at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Daniel Sturridge should begin the game up front and this preview believes that Philippe Coutinho may also be included in the line-up as he steps up his return to fitness following an injury lay-off. Lucas Leiva could be restored to the heart of the backline. The rest of the side will probably be dominated by young players, including the likes of Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sheyi Ojo, Ben Woodburn, Kevin Stewart and Oviemuno Ejaria. There is unlikely to be a drastic change to Liverpool’s style of play, although it is entirely possible that a heavily rotated side will lack a little coherence at times.

Adams tends to favour a 4-2-3-1 configuration and will probably not divert from that at Home Park, although the fact that Liverpool are set to dominate possession and push high up the pitch means that Plymouth’s shape may resemble more of a 4-5-1, just like it did against the Reds first time around. Lone frontman Arnold Garita will often find himself isolated but has enough pace to latch onto loose balls on the counter, while centre-halves Sonny Bradley and Yann Songo’o will opt to stick tight to Liverpool’s striker.

As for this preview’s picks and predictions, it is difficult to see Liverpool slipping up for a second time despite their struggles against Argyle in the original clash, so an away win would be the sensible choice in this one. It could be another hard-fought affair, though, with Plymouth likely to sit deep and look to frustrate their illustrious opponents once more. With that in mind, a victory for Klopp’s men in a match featuring fewer than 2.5 goals could be the way to go (11/4 with William Hill or Boylesports). Coutinho, whether he starts or appears from the bench, is a decent bet at 7/4 with Betfred to find the back of the net anytime.

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