Number 8, Manchester United. Will play… number 23, Liverpool. Wonderful, just bloody wonderful.
Since Jurgen Klopp took charge, Liverpool have treated the domestic cups with relative disdain.
A final was reached in the League Cup in 2015/16, followed by a semi-final defeat a year later. But on five of the other eight occasions in the League Cup and FA Cup combined, the Reds have failed to go beyond round four.
For a team with genuine aspirations of lifting the game’s top two prizes (Premier League and Champions League) the merits of a good old-fashioned cup run are few and far between.
Sure, the 2011/12 League Cup success will have meant a lot to Jordan Henderson at the time. But we’d hazard a guess that his when his friends and family come to visit, his league cup medal is the last of his silverware they get round to seeing.
It’s a great day out for the fans… if any were allowed to attend – something that is looking increasingly unlikely to happen for the remainder of the season.
This current Liverpool crop became truly elite when lifting the Champions League trophy aloft in 2018/19. Is it a coincidence they bowed out of both domestic cups immediately that season? Their twin round three exits removed the potential of a further 10 matches from their schedule and that’s without the potential addition of the truly dismal FA Cup replays.
We at @LFCUncensored aren’t the biggest cup fans as you might have guessed. Judging from Klopp’s cup team selections over the last five years, neither is he.
So it came as a small surprise to see such a strong eleven fielded to face a youthful Aston Villa last Friday. In truth, Liverpool had prepared during the week to face Villa’s first-team. When news broke on the day of the game that an Under-23s side would be selected, the option to mix and match youth and experience between Covid bubbles was not viable.
Regardless, the comments of Georginio Wijnaldum and Neco Williams post-match offered an insight into Liverpool’s changed mentality towards the FA Cup this season.
“We said at the beginning of the season that we wanted to play for everything,” said Wijnaldum (via the club’s official website).
Williams went a step further, stating: “The FA Cup is not a cup we have done that well in, so I think this year we are looking forward to pushing on and to get to the final and hopefully win it.
With Man Utd on the horizon in round four, the chances of Klopp reverting back to a weakened team are virtually nil. The rivalry between the two sides dictates that a strong side simply must be selected.
With another top flight side in West Ham likely awaiting the winner in round five, Messrs Salah, Mane, Fabinho and co. are likely to be called upon once again.
With a condensed fixture schedule and injuries running rampant, a deep run in the cups with first teamers regularly featuring can only have a detrimental effect on their league and Champions League hopes.
‘But Man Utd are in the same position?’ we hear dissenting voices say. They are, but despite what they’d wish for you to believe, the Red Devils are not our main title rivals this season. That honour falls to Man City. For this season at least, they always were and they always will be.
And the one major difference between why they can handle a four-pronged trophy hunt and we can’t is because of numbers.
Man City’s net spend on transfers over the last five years is £564.71m. Over that same timeframe, Liverpool’s net spend is less than one fifth of that amount – £108.07m.
We’d all love to see Henderson hoisting the FA Cup aloft in May. But if doing so reduced our chances of winning the league or Champions League by even just a couple of percent, deep down we’re just not sure it’s worth it.
It’s 2021. Whether you like it or not, the Premier League reigns supreme.