Liverpool’s second string side narrowly avoided an embarrassing exit from the FA Cup as they somehow managed to secure a replay, but they will have to adopt a more serious approach if they want to get past League Two minnows Exeter City and make it to the FA Cup fourth round.
Some three months into his spell at Anfield and Jurgen Klopp is still unable to turn things around, with the German coach not doing all that better than his predecessor. It appears that it could take a while for Liverpool to rediscover the winning mentality and self-confidence, and it now looks as though the Reds will not be able to mount a serious title challenge. Home defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United seriously damaged team’s Champions League hopes, but that could prove a blessing in disguise as it will allow Jurgen Klopp to spend more time working on improving the current squad. The FA Cup clash against Exeter City could serve as a welcoming break from the disappointing league campaign, with the Reds eager to make amends for the under-par display at St James’ Park. With a number of youngsters starting the first match, chances are Klopp will introduce few more first team players into the side, although the lack of confidence is again likely to prove a serious issue.
January recruit Steven Caulker should start at the back, but the game comes too soon for Dejan Lovren, who is expected to return into action in the coming days.
Divock Origi has been ruled out for a month, while Jordon Ibe, Christian Benteke and Joe Allen are all tipped to start the replay.
Exeter City have been balancing between League One and League Two in recent years, and they currently find themselves in the fourth tier of England’s league system. Things hasn’t gone too well for the Grecians of late, although they would have probably made the play-offs last term if it hadn’t been for the shoking finish to the league campaign. Exeter are not doing much better this season, currently sitting in 14th place in the League Two standings, but their FA Cup campaign has been thoroughly impressive so far. The Grecians began this year’s competition with a comfortable away triumph over Didcot Town, before they recorded a 2-0 victory over League One side Port Vale. But, it was the impressive performance in the third round clash against Liverpool that helped the minnows make the headlines, and the 2-2 draw proved enough to earn a replay and a major boost to club’s finances. Exeter will now give their best to frustrate their more ilustrious opponents for the second match running, but that is going to prove a difficult task.
The injury situation has improved a great deal for coach Paul Tisdale, as Lee Holmes, David Noble and Danny Butterfield all returned into action.
Defender Christian Ribeiro came through the weekend’s game against Leyton Orient unscathed, meaning he should keep his place in the side.
Key Factors to Consider
- The first ever FA Cup meeting between the two sides ended all squared (2-2)
- Exeter lost six straight away games in FA Cup before beating Didcot Town in November
- The Grecians failed to score in four of last six FA Cup games on the road
- Liverpool scored under 1.5 goals in 13 of last 17 home fixtures
- The Reds are unbeaten in eight FA Cup matches at Anfield (W6 D2)
Having narrowly avoided defeat in the first match, Liverpool are almost certain to take the replay much more seriously and they can be trusted to make it to the next stage. Exeter will arrive at Anfield looking to defend for their lives, so we recommend betting on the Reds to win to nil.
Verdict: Liverpool to win to nil
Best Odds: 21/20
Bookmaker: William Hill