Liverpool welcome Paul Tisdale and Exeter City to Anfield on Wednesday night, as the two sides contend an FA Cup third-round replay, with a clash at home to West Ham United awaiting the victors.
The initial tie resulted in 2-2 draw at St. James Park, with the Grecians going 2-1 up heading towards full-time, with goals from Tom Nichols and Lee Holmes looking set to seal an unlikely win for the League Two outfit, before a late Brad Smith strike secured a draw for the Reds.
The opening goalscorer that night, 19-year-old academy forward Jerome Sinclair, served to represent the makeup of Jurgen Klopp's lineup—young and inexperienced.
Beset by injuries at this stage in the season, the German could continue to put his faith in his talented youth players, but with Exeter taking heart from that 2-2 draw, Klopp would be wise to show continued respect to Tisdale's side.
Can Exeter go one better and vanquish their Premier League opposition on Wednesday night, or will the might of Liverpool prove too strong?
Date: Wednesday, 20 January, 2015
Time: 8 p.m. GMT / 3 p.m. ET
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (UK) / Fox Sports 2 (U.S only)
Form Lines (Last 5 Games)
Exeter City: L-L-D-D-W
Though his side looked closer to an under-21s lineup than a first-team selection at St. James Park, Klopp confirmed in his pre-match press conference that he is likely to take a similar approach at Anfield, as relayed by Henry Jackson of This is Anfield.
"It will be a similar team to last time. We will play tomorrow with a team with fresh legs," the Reds manager explained.
"It is a big chance, we can show the young boys we believe in them."
Among those youthful stars hoping to feature are Smith, Connor Randall, Joe Maguire, Tiago Ilori, Kevin Stewart, Cameron Brannagan, Pedro Chirivella, Joao Carlos Teixeira, Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent, with the 10-strong group all playing a part in the previous clash.
Klopp also confirmed that 23-year-old right-back Jon Flanagan could make the substitutes' bench after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but another long-term absentee, Daniel Sturridge, remains unavailable.
Returning loanee Danny Ward and January loan signing Steven Caulker are ineligible, having not been registered for the initial tie, while Divock Origi, Philippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel, Joe Gomez, Jordan Rossiter and Danny Ings are all out with injury.
Tisdale has been forced to contend with pressing league matters in recent weeks, but as he told Exeter's official website, he is looking to secure a victory at Anfield:
We've focused on the last two Sky Bet League 2 matches, as it was imperative that we didn't take our eye off the ball and come into this replay having lost two games.
We've been to Morecambe and we've been to Leyton Orient and come back with four points; we've rotated the squad a little and got plenty of players playing, and now we can look forward to this one.
We're going to enjoy it; we have nothing to lose, and we know that we've just picked up some valuable points towards the club's campaign.
Heading to Merseyside on the back of a 3-1 win away to Leyton Orient, Tisdale's side will be confident of pulling of a cup shock, and the 43-year-old has a strong group to choose from.
Exeter will be without loanee Jayden Stockley however, with the Bournemouth striker having joined the Grecians after the 2-2 draw at the beginning of the month, leaving Nichols with the burden of supplying the goals on Wednesday.
Having signalled his intention to field a young lineup once again, Klopp could make a number of changes to the side that lost 1-0 at home to Manchester United on Sunday.
With goalkeeper Ward ineligible, one of Simon Mignolet or Adam Bogdan will play between the sticks, while Randall, Ilori and Smith will all be hoping to continue their first-team development with roles in the Liverpool back line.
Makeshift centre-back Jose Enrique failed to impress at St. James Park, leaving Klopp with a conundrum when it comes to Ilori's defensive partner—Kolo Toure or Mamadou Sakho could come in to provide the Liverpool defence with some much-needed experience.
Stewart and Brannagan are likely to continue their roles in midfield, while Kent, Teixeira and Ojo will hope to partner Liverpool's centre-forward—possibly Christian Benteke.
Having rotated his Exeter side against Morecambe and Orient, Tisdale could revert to the strong starting lineup that held the Reds last time out.
This should see Bobby Olejnik continue in goal, behind Craig Woodman, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Troy Brown and Christian Ribeiro.
In midfield, Holmes, Jordan Tillson, Alex Nicholls and David Noble are likely to line up behind a dynamic attacking duo of Nichols and Jamie Reid.
With Stockley unavailable, veteran forward Clinton Morrison will be hoping to feature, though the 36-year-old former Crystal Palace star may be forced to settle for a place on the substitutes' bench.
Likely Liverpool XI: Bogdan; Randall, Toure, Ilori, Smith; Stewart, Brannagan; Kent, Teixeira, Ojo; Benteke.
Likely Exeter City XI: Olejnik; Ribeiro, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Tillson, Holmes, Nicholls, Noble; Nichols, Reid.
Players to Watch
After becoming an unlikely key figure in Liverpool's remarkable title-challenging season in 2013/14, Flanagan has spent close to two years on the sidelines with a series of knee injuries.
Having returned to first-team training following Klopp's arrival, the England international could make his first appearance for a new-look Reds side on Wednesday night.
Klopp described Flanagan as being "in a really good way," adding to the reams of praise the former Borussia Dortmund manager has heaped on the Liverpool-born defender since his recovery.
Flanagan could come in to perform in any role in the back line, and he will be looking to make another step towards reaching full fitness after a nightmarish spell. All eyes will be on the defender if he comes on at Anfield.
After cancelling out Sinclair's strike with a well-worked effort in the initial tie, Nichols is hoping to enjoy his evening on Merseyside, as he told the Exeter Express and Echo this week:
It is going to be a great night.
I haven't played there and I don't think many lads have. It is going to be an unreal experience, but we have got to go there and try and win.
It is a football match at the end of the day. It is not just a sightseeing event. We are going to go there and give it another go and hopefully get in the next round.
A pacy, intelligent, poacher-type striker, Nichols' movement in the channels could cause Liverpool's defence problems; and if the 22-year-old finds himself through on goal, the odds will be in his favour.
Exeter Wingers vs. Liverpool Full-Backs
Though Smith was lavished with praise for his equaliser in Devon last time out, both the Australian and Randall were in poor form in the defensive sector against the Grecians.
Tisdale looked to exploit this by pumping the ball into the wide areas, and Nichols' strike highlighted the benefits of this approach.
Despite operating on a slicker surface than at St. James Park, Exeter could still look to target the flanks on Wednesday night, with both Holmes and Nicholls hoping to trouble Liverpool's full-backs.
If Smith and Randall continue to struggle, Exeter may find a welcome opening.
Exeter City: 11/1
Odds via Oddschecker and correct at time of writing.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!