Liverpool visit Home Park for the first time since 1962 on Wednesday, and Plymouth will be hoping to build on their defensive masterclass at Anfield 10 days ago. A sellout crowd awaits, and the atmosphere will be brutal, but Klopp looks set to pick another team of teenagers for this crucial replay. So can the Pilgrims pull off an FA Cup miracle?
Derek’s Defensive Discipline
Plymouth Argyle was the first appointment south of the border for Scottish manager Derek Adams. But you can bet that he’s done a fine job with the Pilgrims since taking over in 2015, steadying the ship after a few seasons of freefall.
Plymouth now sit 2nd in League Two after a commendable fifth place finish last year. And what caught the eye of most watchers at Anfield was just how well marshalled the team’s defence was.
As Good as United
Yes, they were playing for a draw from the first minute but you have to admire the discipline and concentration to deny Liverpool anything clear-cut.
Before that match only Man United had kept a clean sheet at Anfield this season. Never mind that Liverpool fielded a young team; it’s still an impressive feat for a side from the fourth tier.
Mountain at the Back
The cornerstone of that performance was centre-half Sonny Bradley. The muscular Hull academy graduate cuts an imposing figure, and is one of those no-nonsense lower league defenders who is happier thumping the ball clear than playing out from the back.
But that is all that will be required of him on Wednesday night as he and partner Yann Songo'O try to achieve the impossible and keep this free-scoring Liverpool side out for a second game in a row.
Plymouth are a team with a big following, despite never having made it to the top tier of English football. Some 8,600 fans travelled all the way up from Devon to Anfield ten days ago and made a racket, out-singing the subdued home fans.
So Klopp may have to reconsider putting some experience in the lineup for the Home Park game. Ticket sales were suspended on Tuesday and you can put money on the atmosphere being fierce in this replay.
The other hero from the match at Anfield was captain Luke McCormick in goal. He had to make five saves but never looked uncomfortable.
He will be hoping that the Pilgrims can muster a bit more going forward. Bristol City loanee Paul Garita was completely isolated. New signing Nathan Blissett could come in, having just arrived from Torquay United for £15,000.
Plymouth Predicted Teamsheet:
McCormick; Miller, Songo’O, Bradley, Purrington; Jervis, Threlkeld, Carey, Slew; Blissett
Time for the First-Teamers?
Even though they missed out on Europe last season, Liverpool have had a busy campaign this year because of their runs in the domestic cups. With a demanding cup tie coming up against Southampton Klopp has a big decision to make about team selection.
In theory he’s got the squad depth to handle Plymouth, but the Pilgrims will already be buoyed after the Anfield match and will be playing the game of their lives on Wednesday. But the word is that Klopp is going to stick with a similar team to the one that drew ten days ago.
One player that Klopp can’t call on is the defender Joël Matip, who could be out for the next six games due to Liverpool’s dispute with Fifa.
At this rate it would probably have made more sense for the player to travel to Gabon for the Africa Cup of Nations as at least that way he’d be getting some matches under his belt. As it is, Liverpool can’t expect Matip to be match fit once he is finally allowed to return to the fold.
The centre-half had been a revelation and helped patch up a porous defence, but hasn’t featured for five weeks now.
The youngest player on the pitch at Anfield was the 17-year-old Ben Woodburn. Starting on the left he was dwarfed by the Plymouth players, but was at the centre of Liverpool’s brightest moments and almost opened the scoring with some deft footwork in the first half.
He’s a wide playmaker, cutting in from the touchline and threading passes for the striker and overlapping midfielders. Even if Klopp does decide to inject some more experience into the team you can bet that Woodburn will keep his place.
Stuttering Season for Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge hasn’t had the greatest season under Klopp, often finding himself on the bench for the big games, like United last weekend. The England striker is odds-on to start on Wednesday, and being a few years older is a better pick than Origi for the night.
With Lucas Leiva an injury doubt there won’t be many players who are used to the kind of environment that awaits them at Home Park. And if Sturridge is given any room by the Argyle defenders Sturridge should be able to make his quality tell.
Liverpool Predicted Lineup:
Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Gomez, Moreno; Can, Stewart, Ejaria; Ojo, Sturridge, Woodburn
When Will Plymouth vs Liverpool Take Place?
Kick-off is at 19:45 GMT on Wednesday 18 January.
Plymouth vs Liverpool Match Prediction
The FA Cup has always had an upset in store, but what’s making this tie even less predictable is Klopp’s preference for an inexperienced lineup. With a few older hands scattered here and there Liverpool have the quality to overcome Plymouth quite easily, but there’s no telling how crucial that boisterous home support will be.
Liverpool haven’t gone out to a side three divisions or more below them since Exeter City knocked them out in 1959. And even if it won’t be a walkover, we think that this record will be preserved. We’re tipping a 1-2 win for the Reds.