After clawing at the cliff to not be dragged into the muck by a non-league side in the 3rd round, Liverpool jump up two leagues to take on Oldham on Sunday in the 4th round. It's sad to say, but if they come out as nonchalant as they did against Mansfield, they could very well see themselves being laughed at by just about everyone as they're dumped out and the biggest scalp on the floor. That wouldn't be good.
The biggest question for Liverpool seems to be who's going to play fullback for them on Sunday. Jose Enrique isn't going to make the match, and now Glen Johnson is experiencing some stiffness in his hamstring. Considering Arsenal and City, both away, await after this one, it would be utter lunacy to risk Johnson on this match. But John Flanagan hurt his knee playing for the U-21s and is out, and after that you'd struggle to find anyone else. Jack Robinson can take the left, and I suppose it has to be Andre Wisdom on the right. But he's played a lot of matches recently and Brendan Rodgers may have been looking forward to giving him a rest. But needs must. If he can't go, you might see Jordan Henderson moonlight there, but he's another who probably should be rested for the bigger challenges ahead in the week.
I'm only assuming it will be Carragher and Coates -- let out of the dungeon where he's been kept -- but it might be that Skrtel got a breather against Norwich so he could play all three matches this week. It's too soon for Reina as well, so look for Brad Jones to keep his place.
In midfield, we can be certain that Lucas and Gerrard are not starting. That means Shelvey and Allen are certs to start. The third spot is the tricky one. Could be Suso in his more natural role, but one that Rodgers has been hesitant to give him since the Wigan....thing. Hendo could be run out again, but I hope not because I'm praying he's first choice for the two matches after. Conor Coady could get a look, but if he didn't against Mansfield I doubt he will now either. It might depend who's up front.
Which I expect to be Sterling-Sturridge-Borini. The Italian has yet to get a start since his return from injury, this would seem the perfect slot to do so. Sterling has gotten more rest than he has all season, and looks to be being transformed into a sub role for the time being in the league. Sturridge just needs the matches, and can probably get the three in the week that will be required. If this is indeed the front line, than I expect Suso to be in midfield. But he could replace Sturridge in the front three with Borini going through the middle.
This is as far as Oldham have gotten in the Cup since 1978. They've reached it a couple times. They got here by beating Kidderminster (I actually have a friend who's a Harriers supporter, if you can believe that), Doncaster, and Nottingham Forest. They currently sit 19th in League 1, just four points from the trap door to League 2 (which I always kind of imagine as the garbage chute on the Death Star, and some of the pitches in the league look worse). But aside from the two Cup victories, they haven't managed a win in the league since December 8th. Obviously, the FA Cup has been something of a welcome distraction for them.
Jose Baxter is their leading scorer with 11 all-told, and he did score against Forest in the last round. Matt Derbyshire was another name you might have recognized. But he went back to Forest. So yeah, this is as much as I can tell you.
But you know how this goes. It's the biggest match of their season by far, and hopped up even more by Liverpool knocking them out of the competition last season. Everyone will be dreaming of a day to remember, so you know you'll get full commitment. A bad break here, a bad bounce there, some mistakes from Liverpool, and it could easily become a mess. Let's not have that happen.