This weekend 32 of the teams in the English football pyramid will battle it out to stay alive in the oldest cup competition in the world. Several Premier League teams will feature in the FA Cup 4th round. But two of the ties will be extra special this weekend. Liverpool – the Premier League champions elect travel to League One side Shrewsbury Town on Sunday evening to try and keep their dream of a dream double (or treble) alive. On the other hand, last year’s double winners Manchester City host Fulham earlier in the day.
Shrewsbury Town are a feisty team from League One, who are coming into this tie after beating Bristol City in the last round. Earlier in the competition they beat Bradford and Mansfield as well. But it is fair to say that the apex team in the English football pyramid is the greatest challenge that they have faced this season. Despite having faced Premier League teams quite regularly in the FA Cup, they have not been easily pushed over at least at home, attested by the fact that they have drawn against West Ham and Wolves at home in the last three seasons. Currently however, they sit 16th in the 23-team League One (includes Bury), 12 points from relegation spots and 5 above Accrington in 17th. A visit by any Premier League team will be an exciting game for the Shrews and their fans but a visit by the champions elect will be extra special. They will definitely try to at least book a trip to Anfield by forcing a replay.
Liverpool are a feisty team from the Premier League, who are at max 10 wins away from winning the Premier League title after a wait of 30 years. They come into this game having beaten Everton in the previous round, when Jurgen Klopp fielded a side filled with youngsters. But they still easily went past the Toffees. In the immediate past, Liverpool come into Sunday’s game after beating Wolves 1-2 at the Molineux on Thursday night and after beating Manchester United and Tottenham in their two fixtures before the Wolves game. Although right now, many Liverpool fans and Jurgen Klopp himself refuse to acknowledge that Liverpool are the champions elect, but it is very likely that at least a few fans are dreaming of a domestic double or a treble. They need a win on Sunday to keep the dream alive and it is highly likely that this team will oblige.
- Shrewsbury Town and Liverpool have faced each other only once previously, at the same juncture in FA Cup in 1996. The Reds won 4-0 at Gay Meadow on their way to the final that season.
- Shrewsbury have been eliminated from the FA Cup by Premier League opponents thrice in the last four seasons. They lost to Manchester United in 2015-16, West Ham in 2017-18, and to Wolves last season. The Shrews did give Wolves a scare as they took the tie into a replay by drawing 2-2 at home, before going 2-1 ahead at Molineux in the replay.
- In the Premier League era, Liverpool have progressed from 15 of their 17 FA Cup ties against sides from outside the top two-tiers of English football, going out against Bolton Wanderers in 1992-93 and Oldham Athletic in 2012-13.
- However, they have had a few bad seasons in the FA Cup recently. Liverpool are looking to reach the FA Cup fifth round for the first time since 2014-15, when they reached the semi-final.
- Shrewsbury Town have lost just one of their last 17 home FA Cup matches (W10 D6), a 0-3 defeat against Manchester United in February 2016.
24 year old Cummings joined Shrewsbury Town last summer and since then has managed to play about 830 minutes for the Shrews. In 640 minutes over 14 League One appearances, Cummings has scored 4 goals and in 189 minutes played in FA Cup he has provided one assist. He comes into the game on Sunday having scored a wonderful goal against Fleetwood Town. With four goals this season, Cummings is Shrews’ top goal scorer in League One and boasts of a quite decent xG per 90 minutes of 0.4. Shrews’ manager Sam Ricketts will be hoping that his young striker can make a mark against the top side of the land.
For someone who has scored so many iconic goals for Liverpool over the last season and half, it is indeed surprising that Divock Origi is only a bench player for the Reds. Sadio Mane’s hamstring injury however gives Origi an opportunity to start on Sunday. This season, he has been primarily used off the bench, indicated by his 736 minutes of action spread over more than 20 games. He has scored 5 goals and assisted one goal in that time. He has not scored since his brace against Everton in the league in early December. But his reputation as an impact striker would mean that Klopp will be hoping of a return to goalscoring form from Divock on Sunday.
For Shrewsbury Town, Sam Ricketts has a full squad to choose from with no major injury concerns. He also has reinforcements in the form of January signings Sam Hart and Josh Vela who have joined earlier this month.
For Liverpool, the game against Wolves at Molineux was a mixed bag from the perspective of the injury list. Fabinho and Joel Matip have returned to full fitness and are available to play now, while Sadio Mane limped off in the first half with a possible hamstring injury. Others who are not available for Sunday’s game include Shaqiri, Clyne, Lovren and Milner. It is very likely that Klopp will take this opportunity to rest his first XI, giving much needed playing time to players coming back from injury and also to important bench players like Lallana and Origi. Youngsters like Harvey Eliott, Yasser Larouci, Neco Williams, and Curtis Jones will be hoping to start. New signing Minamino who had a slightly forgettable Premier League debut against Wolves will also seek to make amends on Sunday.
Despite the Shrews having troubled a couple of Premier League teams at home recently, it is extremely unlikely that they will be able to upset Liverpool or even take this tie to a replay. The Reds should run out comfortable victors on Sunday.
Shrewsbury Town 0 – 3 Liverpool