Wolverhampton Wanderers can be fancied to give Liverpool a very good run for their money when the two sides meet in the third round of the FA Cup at Molineux on Monday (19:45 GMT, live on BBC1).
Wolves have impressed since returning to the Premier League at the start of the season following a six-year absence. In ninth place, with good points on the board and relegation now highly unlikely to be a concern, they could be primed for a good run in the FA Cup.
Nuno’s side are a very solid outfit, with his 3-4-2-1 formation providing both defensive cover and the ability to move forward swiftly in transition. While they currently have a negative two goal difference, their underlying statistics suggest they are actually one of the best-structured sides in the division from a defensive standpoint. Their attack is pretty decent too.
That underlying structural strength has been apparent in their matches against the top six. Wolves have already won at home to Chelsea and away to Tottenham Hotspur, and drawn at home to Manchester City and away to Arsenal and Manchester United. They have shown themselves capable of competing against England’s best teams in one-off encounters.
It has been a long time since Wolves last made significant progress in either the FA Cup or the League Cup. They have failed to go further than the third round in six of the last seven seasons. It is necessary to go back in 2003 to find the last time they made the last eight, 1998 for the last time they reached the semi-finals and 1960 for the last of their four triumphs in the competition.
Yet while the draw for this year’s running hasn’t been especially kind to them on paper, pitting them against the Premier League leaders and a team who have twice lifted the trophy since the turn of the millennium, in reality, it is likely to be an understrength and potentially vulnerable Liverpool side who turn up in the Midlands on Monday evening.
Liverpool have generally been good in cup competitions since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in October 2015. They reached and lost the finals of the League Cup, Europa League and, last season, the Champions League. However they have been eliminated from the FA Cup in the fourth round in each of Klopp’s three attempts at the competition.
In the 2015-16 season, they required a replay to see off League Two side Exeter City before falling to West Ham by the same method. In 2016-17, they required a replay to see off League Two’s Plymouth Argyle before being eliminated by Wolves, then of the Championship. Last season they defeated Everton in the third round before losing out to then-top-flight side West Bromwich Albion.
Klopp doesn’t treat the competition with quite the same importance as he does the Premier League and the Champions League. At the end of the always hectic festive period, it is difficult to see him putting out a first-choice starting XI against Wolves. While last year saw him send out surprisingly strong line-ups in the FA Cup, that wasn’t previously the case.
Liverpool do have a good squad, with able replacements in most positions. With a few injuries and the desire to give near-constant starters like Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Roberto Firmino a rest – particularly so after having their lead at the top of the league cut to four points by defeat to Manchester City on Thursday – they will undoubtedly be weaker than normal.
That provides Wolves with further reason to believe they have a solid chance of upsetting the odds and progressing to the fourth round. While they were defeated 0-2 by Liverpool when the sides met in the league at Molineux just a couple of weeks back, the scenario will be different on Monday. Nuno’s side have enough about them to turn their series of small advantages into victory.
Our Preview’s Wolves vs. Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Wolverhampton Wanderers to win @ best odds of 7/2 with Bet365.
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