The FA Cup comes alive at the third round stage. The Premier League and Championship clubs enter the competition with football’s lesser lights looking to become headline makers and bloody the nose of one of the big boys. Plymouth Argyle have that opportunity when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool.
David and Goliath? The two sides are 67 places apart in the professional game. Liverpool, second in the Premier League, face a Plymouth side which sits second in League Two. To put the gulf between the two clubs in context, the new main stand at Anfield cost more to build than Plymouth manager Derek Adams spent building his squad but that’s the beauty of the cup; rich or poor, it’s ninety minutes to glory.
Can Plymouth really do it? With Liverpool hit by injuries, Jurgen Klopp will no doubt field a side featuring a number of changes. They travel to Southampton next week for the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final. The German may believe that the fixture list is weighted in favour of rotating his squad for the FA Cup.
It’s this notion which offers Argyle players and supporters hope. 9,000 will follow the Greens to Anfield in the hope that they will see a crowning moment in the club’s history. It’s a faint hope but that’s what being a football supporter is about: hope that it might be your day.
Jurgen Klopp was probably relieved to face lower league opposition when the draw for the third round was made. Liverpool, with some key fixtures ahead of them, were always going to field a much-rotated side against Plymouth. Now, with 8 senior players out or doubtful, his options are becoming limited.
The Reds hopes that Sadio Mane would be able to defer travelling to Dakar to join the Senegal squad, were dashed when he was required to join up earlier this week. It’s left them with just Divock Origi as an experienced striker; the Belgian has 52 appearances for the club to his name.
It’s been seven years since Liverpool last lost in the third round to lower league opposition. Reading, a Championship side then as now, travelled to Anfield for a replay following a 1 – 1 draw at the Madejski Stadium. Few gave them a chance but the Royals returned to their Berkshire home with a 2 – 1 win under their belts.
Since then, Liverpool have, for the most part, done enough to get through. Oldham were swept aside in 2012 but Mansfield Town, AFC Wimbledon, Oldham (again) and Exeter City have all made them work for their progress. The Grecians, Plymouth’s bitter local rivals, held the Reds at St James Park but fell to a 3 – 0 defeat at Anfield in the replay.
Liverpool didn’t concede at home during last season’s Cup – West Ham held them to a goalless draw in the fourth round – and indeed, Peter Crouch was the last opponent to find the net during an FA Cup tie on 18th March 2012. Plymouth have to buck 504 minutes of recent football history if they are to win.
It’s the opportunity for us to see the promising talent of Ben Woodburn who became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer when he scored the 67th-minute winner against Leeds United in the EFL Cup quarter-final, aged 17 years and 45 days.
Seventeen in October last year, there are high hopes at Anfield that the Welsh under-19 international will go on to become the next Robbie Fowler or Michael Owen, whose goalscoring record he broke with the EFL Cup goal. He may yet even play for England, with his eligibility for both nations the subject of a domestic tug-of-war.
Woodburn is expected to play on Origi’s left with Shey Ojo on the right. The England youngster fractured his back and only returned to training in November and has yet to make a first-team appearance this season. Injuries to others present him with that opportunity although Klopp may opt for the Dutch international Georginio Wijnaldum to offer some experience in the attack.
Whatever side the German fields, they are expected to win this tie comfortably. If they can go through to the next round with a vibrant performance, Klopp will be absolutely delighted.
It wasn’t until 1920 that Plymouth first qualified for the third round – helped by a young David Jack, the future Bolton and Arsenal legend, in their ranks. This time, it’s only the second time in seven seasons that they have reached this far. Not many are giving them much hope of progressing any further.
Second in League Two having lost last season’s play-off final at Wembley, the Pilgrims are not to be taken lightly. Exeter offered them a template for pushing Liverpool to the limit; can Plymouth offer an even worse Devon nightmare?
Their charge to the top of the table has faltered over the Christmas period but 8 wins and 3 defeats in League Two means they cannot be dismissed lightly. However, two wins in their last three on their travels underpin any aspirations of victory in this match they may harbour.
If they can’t believe in current form, Argyle supporters can look to history. The club almost made the FA Cup final in 1984, losing to Watford by a single George Reilly goal at Villa Park. Curiously, the Hornets ended Plymouth’s 2006-07 cup run with a 1 – 0 win in the quarter-finals at Home Park, the furthest Argyle have ventured in the FA Cup since that wonderful cup adventure.
The historical connection though from 1983-84 comes from Newport County. This season, The Exiles forced a replay by drawing in the second round at Plymouth. Argyle won the replay 1 – 0. Rewind to their momentous season, Newport County forced a third round draw at Home Park before Plymouth won the replay 1 – 0. A portent of good fortune for the Pilgrims…?
Maybe that’s where Derek Adams gameplan might lay. Prepare an altar with former Argyle hero – and ex-Liverpool player – Tommy Tynan and pray. David Goodwillie probably does that every night with the Scot still waiting for his first Plymouth goal in 21 appearances. Their leading scorer is midfielder Graham Carey with 9, with Jake Jarvis and Jordan Slew the most rampant strikers likely to be on show with nine between them (6 and 3 respectively).
Few are giving Plymouth a chance and that could be their strongest asset: complacency on the part of Liverpool. Most of all, their supporters – those who travel and those who stay to cheer from the city itself – will want Argyle to put in a performance they can all be proud of. A good day at Anfield could do wonders for their promotion chances. Not losing? That’s a nice added bonus.
FORM (Last six games)
Liverpool – DWWWWD
Plymouth – WWWDWL
- Liverpool are unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 FA Cup ties.
- Exeter City, Plymouth’s bitter local rivals, took Liverpool to a replay in last season’s third round.
- Plymouth have won 10 of their last 16 away games and lost the other six.
- Liverpool are unbeaten at home this season (W9, D2).
- The two sides have met 5 times at Anfield with one draw and four Liverpool wins.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Last six meetings
28/04/1962 Second Division Plymouth 2:3 Liverpool
09/12/1961 Second Division Liverpool 2:1 Plymouth
04/03/1961 Second Division Liverpool 1:1 Plymouth
05/11/1960 Second Division Plymouth 0:4 Liverpool
13/02/1960 Second Division Plymouth 1:1 Liverpool
26/09/1959 Second Division Liverpool 4:1 Plymouth
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Francois is one of Howtobet4free’s co-founders and has written many of Howtobet4free’s popular Betting Guides. Francois also helps run the @howtobet4free_ Twitter account