Ahead of their third-round replay in the FA Cup on Thursday against Tranmere Rovers, Watford coach Nigel Pearson changed the side that played in the league on Tuesday.
The former defender brought in 11 new players, clearly indicating that his priority lay in keeping last year’s FA Cup runners-up in the Premier League, even if it meant playing with a weakened team against the League One side.
Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp might be tempted to do something similar, but the other way round.
Shrewsbury Town vs Liverpool
Manchester City vs Fulham
Tranmere Rovers vs Manchester United
Bournemouth vs Arsenal
A hard-earned 2-1 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday saw Liverpool open a 16-point lead at the top of the league table with a game in hand, and the German finds himself in the enviable position of pretty much being able to keep his strongest side for cup matches, as anything but a Liverpool league triumph would be a footballing miracle on a par with Leicester City winning the league in 2016.
The Reds, of course, have the squad to stay in contention for a treble – Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup – and Klopp has the luxury of having enough quality in his team to be able to put a match-winning team on the field for every game.
This afternoon, the Reds are away at one of five third-tier teams left in the competition – Shrewsbury Town – and the difference between the two clubs can best be explained by looking at the value of their squads.
Credible football website transfermarkt.co.uk puts the value of the entire Shrewsbury squad at £5.58 million (R105 million). Liverpool, in contrast, have just three players in their squad, all of them reserve goalkeepers, who are valued at less than that, and the estimated value of the 24 players in their squad is given as £1.07 billion.
For Shrew’s Sam Hart, playing against Liverpool would be a dream come true.
The defender, who only joined Shrewsbury on loan from Blackburn Rovers at the end of last week, was formally on Liverpool’s books and was handed a debut, which was to remain his only game, by Klopp in a friendly against Mainz in August 2016.
“It’s crazy. The first thing the gaffer [coach] told me at Blackburn was that they’re playing Liverpool next week. It’ll be nice to see a couple of old friends,” he said.
Also today, beleaguered Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær faces a tricky trip to Tranmere, who beat Watford 2-1 on Thursday, knowing that another defeat could well be his last in charge of the 12-time FA Cup winners.
Manchester City, who have all but given up on the league and will focus on the FA Cup and the Champions League instead, are at home against Fulham in the other match today.
Much of the beauty of the FA Cup lies in the giant-slaying acts of footballing minnows.
Half of the 32 clubs involved in the fourth round play their football below the Premier League, with the lowest-ranked team in the competition, League Two club Northampton Town, at home to Derby County.
Tomorrow sees the final game of the fourth round, with Arsenal and Bournemouth involved in an all-Premier League clash at Dean Court.
With five matches being played without any Premier League club involved, there will be at least five lower-league clubs involved in the round of the Last 16.
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