After a frenetic period of Premier League action over the past fortnight it is time to take proceedings down a gear as we focus our attention on the 3rd Round of this season’s F.A. Cup, this is the stage in which the big boys join proceedings and the pairing of Merseyside giants Liverpool and Everton will set us up nicely for the weekend ahead.
However with both Liverpool and Everton having played four league fixtures since December 22nd, respective managers Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce may well see this as the perfect opportunity in which to rest some of their key names.
For Liverpool rotation has already been the order of the day as of late with Klopp not afraid to change his starting eleven, this was no less evident than on Monday when the Reds traveled to Burnley and required a late Ragnar Klavan goal to snatch all three points at Turf Moor.
That trip to Lancashire saw them without Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah who were both out injured and they will once again play no part in tonight’s proceedings while Roberto Firmino was dropped to the bench. It was nearly a decision that backfired with Burnley thinking had earned a draw after Sadio Mane’s sensational opener.
But Liverpool came through the task unscathed and they are now three points clear of Tottenham in the race for fourth place, however talk of the Champions League goes on the back burner for this evening as it is once again local supremacy which is on offer.
Everton come into this game having not won any of their last four league matches and it will be interesting to see just how strong Sam Allardyce goes this evening as to an indication of just how seriously he will be taking the competition this season.
A well changed lineup will point to the fact that it is league survival that is his only concern while on the other hand he may look at this as a chance to bring some cheer to an Everton season which it is fair to say has been underwhelming after the amount of money that was spent in the Summer.
They have also spent money in January with the arrival of Cenk Tosun from Besiktas and he could be in line for a first start this evening. It is fair to say that Everton may have got their defensive issues sorted (although recent form may suggest otherwise) but they still need some improvement up top and that is where they will point to the talents of Tosun.
It also seems as if it will be one in one out at Everton with the news that Ross Barkley is set to move to Chelsea for a fee of £15m. That will come in nicely for Sam Allardyce as he continues his pursuit of Nice’s midfielder Jean Michael Seri.
While on the topic of transfers there is of course the possibility that Virgil van Dijk could make his debut for Liverpool this evening after his £75m transfer from Southampton on January 1st, with this cup encounter giving him the perfect chance to bed in and that the club for a return to league action next weekend.
It is a Merseyside derby on paper but you do have to wonder just how seriously the two managers will be taking it, a win would obviously be nice but you get the feeling that if either side was to drop out this early it would not be the end of the world either. Results dependent on strength of lineups, your guess is as good as mine to be honest.