Liverpool FC v Exeter City FC - Match Preview

Last updated : 20 January 2016 By Ben Green
Brad Smith spared the Reds' blushes in the last fixture. A reflex finish in front of goal on 73 minutes at St. James stadium was just enough. All eyes will be on, what will be, a youthful team in the hope that they can carry the hosts through to the next round.

In his pre-match conference Jürgen Klopp acknowledged that team are not scoring enough from midfield. "Perhaps the players are not cool enough to see others in a better position...?" said the German referring to the team's last game against Manchester United when, despite having the lions share of possession, despite having the lions share of chances, were very poor in terms of conversion. I noted in my post Manyoo match article that the players were guilty of poor decision making at key points in attack and it's clear the manager shares the same view.

One of the problems that the side were presented with in the last tie was the less than perfect pitch at the St. James stadium. Klopp felt that the team can and should do better this time around. Without putting too much pressure on young shoulders, this really is a game the team should be winning.  Having said that, let's not use youth as too much of an excuse.

The handicap of tonight's expected team is not one of age in my opinion, but more experience. Left back Smith is 21, Joao Teixeira is already 23 and Tiago Ilori is 22. OK, they are not seasoned professionals but they should be good enough to make a good go of this fixture. One thing is for certain, many of them will be used to playing with each other from the U-21 squad so this can only be an advantage.

Indications are that Jon Flanagan may also make a return tonight, albeit from the bench. The 23 year-old has not played for the first team in over two years and will be itching to get back into competitive action. The official website of Liverpool FC carries a special message from ex-club favourite Steven Gerrard to Flanagan wishing him all the best. I'm sure this is a sentiment shared by all the fans.

At least history is on the side of the Hosts tonight. Liverpool have never lost an FA Cup match to a team in the bottom tier. There's a first time for everything of course, but when you consider also that Exeter have beaten a top-flight club only three times out of 32 attempts, then one could be forgiven for thinking this should be an easy game.

That said, there are of course, no easy games - as they say - and this is one that needs to be taken seriously. In some ways it's probably better that an inexperienced team plays tonight. These guys al have something to prove and for me, they would pose tougher opposition than a bunch of over paid, over confident, seasoned pros.

A win would put Liverpool through to the next round and a home tie with West Ham. A stern opponent if ever there was one. Let the game begin. By 10pm tonight we'll know if Liverpool will be facing them or fending off more questions.

Follow Ben on Twitter @MrBengreen

Latest Forum Discussion