Injury-hit Liverpool look to avoid FA Cup upset
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
It's a match that has all the ingredients of a classic FA Cup upset.
An injury-hit, inconsistent and potentially jaded Premier League heavyweight making a 500-mile round trip to a team in the lower reaches of the fourth tier with a small ground, poor field, and a recent history of shocking a top side.
Exeter's home game against Liverpool today is the pick of the games in the third round of the FA Cup, when the giants of the Premier League join the teams from the lower leagues and non-league in the world's oldest club knockout competition.
As always, the search is on for a huge shock on one of the most exciting weekends in the English calendar and it could come at the 8,500-capacity St James' Park, which - located in the south-west corner of England - is one of the most remote grounds in the country.
Liverpool are in the middle of a gruelling schedule - it will be the team's sixth game in 19 days - that is taking its toll on the squad. Manager Jurgen Klopp is without a senior centre back for the match, as Mamadou Sakho, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure are all hurt, while attackers Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho are also injured.
The match comes three days after a League Cup semi-final match at Stoke, and five days before a Premier League game against first-place Arsenal. Klopp could even make 11 changes to the team.
"It will be a team that hasn't played too often together," Klopp said. "If this is a chance for Exeter, then they have to take it."
This will all be music to the ears of Exeter's players, whose team is 16th in the 24-team League Two - a gap of 76 places to Liverpool in the English ladder. The last time Exeter reached this stage was in 2005, when they took Manchester United to a replay after a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
Arsenal are bidding to become the first team since Blackburn in 1884-86 to win the FA Cup in three straight years, and to extend its record-setting haul of FA Cup titles to 13.
With his team having its best chance in years to win the Premier League, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must decide whether to rotate his squad. Wenger said Thursday that Alexis Sanchez is not yet ready to return from a hamstring injury, but midfielder Mikel Arteta is available.