Exeter City vs. Liverpool
A giant-killing suffered by any Premier League rival is always a wonderful schadenfreude to be enjoyed on a cold night—another good reason to have the third round in January. But it is Exeter and not Liverpool who suffered last year, the subject of a David and Goliath style beating at the hands of ultra-minnows Warrington Town. A chasm of 100 league places separated Warrington from Exeter and the atmosphere on the bus ride home must have been desolate. It isn’t even the first time it’s happened—the Grecians lost in 2008 to Curzon Ashton, a similarly low-ranked side.
Paul Tisdale’s side haven’t had the best of times recently either—4 league defeats in a row doesn’t exactly hint at an upset. Exeter are having difficulty beating anyone in their own division, never mind the Reds, who will be hungry for another win after an away League Cup victory over Stoke. The Grecians will hope that Liverpool’s highly paid stars simply won’t be up for a cold night on a lower-league pitch, in front of a boisterous crowd. Tisdale is upbeat about their chances though. “Win, lose or draw, you’d look at it as a positive,” he said, although presumably a severe drubbing in front of their own fans would be painful all the same. At least losing to Liverpool is a little more expected than to Warrington.
Jurgen Klopp’s men will be well-prepared but there’s only so much the German can do in the face of an epidemic of injuries. Daniel Sturridge hasn’t found a cure for his fitness troubles, and a whole first XI team of players are out with hamstring related issues. It’s getting to the point where fans expect an injury in every game—gasps of surprise have been replaced with weary shrugs and maudlin banter. Tiago Llori, a player who may never be good enough for Liverpool, has been recalled so that Klopp has at least one recognised central defender to field against Exeter.
For Exeter, keep an eye out for 22 year old striker Tom Nichols. A product of the academy, he has 9 goals to his name so far this season, more than any Liverpool player. With the match being televised on the BBC, the young man will surely revel in the exposure. It’s his chance to make his mark in front of millions of people—and when you see the success of lower-league players like Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli, you would imagine anything is possible.
There is still too much quality in this Liverpool side to get beaten by Exeter though, so FLIP Sports is plumping for a Reds win.