League Two outfit AFC Wimbledon welcome Liverpool to Kingsmeadow on Monday night in a repeat of the famous upset in the 1988 FA Cup final which the original ‘Crazy Gang’ won 1-0 thanks to a Lawrie Sanchez goal.
The headlines will undoubtedly be dominated by the shock announcement by Steven Gerrard who revealed on Friday that this would be his final season with the Reds. He will be desperate to bow out with a trophy and advancing to the next round of the FA Cup will be one step towards that, with the final falling on the midfielder’s 35th birthday in what could possibly be his last game for the club.
They will however have to get past a club formed just 12 and a half year ago, when the original Wimbledon F.C. were relocated to Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire. Having enjoyed a meteoric rise achieving five promotions in nine seasons to rise to the 3rd division in 2011, they became the second club ever to complete such a feat after the now dissolved Rushden & Diamonds.
Having survived the first two seasons, Neal Ardley’s side are currently in 11th position in the table, just four points off the play-off places and have put together four wins in their last five matches including the recent 4-1 win over Exeter City. It will be the first time in their short history that they will square up against a Premier League team.
Liverpool blew a two goal lead at halftime against Leicester City on New Year’s Day though the performance was far from convincing even when Gerrard was converting his penalties. Brendan Rodgers will be making a few changes in light of crucial games coming thick and fast, and the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Gerrard himself are likely to be rested.
Defender Jake Smith continues to be on the sidelines with a thigh injury and will be out for at least another month while Adam Barrett’s loan expires one day before the match and he will return to Gillingham. Jack Smith and Andy Frampton will be unavailable for Monday’s match with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.
Both Sammy Moore and Adebayo Akinfenwa should be fit having recovered from illness and a leg injury respectively with the 32-year-old coming off the bench to score his side’s 4th goal over the weekend.
Martin Skrtel is expected to start after serving his one game suspension in the 2-2 draw against Leicester City for collecting five yellow cards.
Daniel Sturridge continues to recover from his thigh injury and he isn’t expected to be back before mid-January. Suso and John Flanagan have returned to training, but the trip to Wimbledon will come too soon for them. Adam Lallana would be rested following a thigh injury picked up during the match against Leicester City.
AFC Wimbledon: 4-4-2: Shea; Fuller, Goodman, Barrett, Kennedy; Francomb, Bulman, Moore, Azeez; Akinfenwa, Tubbs
Liverpool: 3-4-2-1: Mignolet; Can, Lovren, Skrtel; Manquillo, Allen, Rossiter, Markovic; Borini, Lambert, Ojo
- AFC Wimbledon have reached the third round of the FA Cup for the first time since the club reformed in 2002.
- AFC Wimbledon hold the record for the longest unbeaten run of league matches in English football when they went without a defeat between February 2003 and December 2004, a run of 78 games.
- AFC Wimbledon are the first club to be formed in the 21st century to make it into the Football League.
- AFC Wimbledon faced Milton Keynes Dons in the second round of the FA Cup in December 2012 in what was the first ever meeting between the two sides since the relocation of Wimbledon F.C. to Milton Keynes. AFC Wimbledon lost 2-1.
- Liverpool have won 3 and lost 3 out of their last 6 FA Cup games.
- Liverpool have failed to progress beyond the 3rd round of the FA Cup twice in the last four seasons.
- Liverpool have won the last three meetings with Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon: Matt Tubbs
The 30-year-old striker on loan from AFC Bournemouth has scored a whooping 15 goals from 29 games in all competitions and has notched up four goals in his side’s recent four wins out of five. Since his contract with Eddie Howe’s men runs out in the summer, he is free to speak to other clubs and can be recalled in case he decides to switch clubs. Ardley though has revealed that they have offered Tubbs an ‘incredible offer’ to join them on a permanent basis though they would be rendered helpless if a League 1 club comes calling.
As of now, AFC Wimbledon pays only 25 per cent of the striker’s salary who has thrived alongside ‘big’ Adebayo Akinfenwa and has put the club back on track for the play-off places. He has truckloads of experience having scored more than 203 goals spanning over a 12-year career in which he has made 452 appearances and will be looking to utilise his partnership with Akinfenwa to trouble a susceptible Liverpool defence.
Wimbledon fans and manager alike will be hoping that Tubbs stays with them over the course of January and beyond because they struggled in front of goal last season when Michael Smith who was on loan from Charlton Athletic left the club for Swindon Town in similar circumstances.
Liverpool: Lazar Markovic
Signed for £20 million from Benfica in the summer, there was always going to be huge pressure on the shoulders of the 20-year-old Serb and after a tough start to life at Anfield, Markovic seems to be slowly finding his feet. Having made cameo appearances in Liverpool’s last two league games, he should be in the starting line-up as he was in his side’s 3-1 over Bournemouth in the League Cup when he bagged his first ever goal for the club.
Like many other teammates, he seems to have adjusted well in the 3-4-2-1 system which Brendan Rodgers has deployed since the trip to Dean Court and has impressed from the left-wing back position. He tracks back well, is good with the ball at his feet and is never afraid to take on defenders. Wimbledon defenders will have a tough time if he is on the top of his game on Monday since the young winger could also be deployed in a more attacking position.
Liverpool have had defensive problems all season and knockout games at lower division clubs can get quite tricky at times. However, the Reds have adapted to the new formation well, and in a similar manner to their recent win at Bournemouth in the League Cup, they should come out on top on Monday to advance to the 4th round of the FA Cup.