Weblog: The football punter

Wolves v Liverpool preview

FA Cup third round
BBC1, 7.45pm Monday

Liverpool's eyes are firmly on the prize of winning the title and that could make the Premier League leaders vulnerable for their tricky trip to take on a hungrier Wolves at Molineux.

The Merseysiders are understandably fully consumed by trying to land a first championship success since 1990 and Thursday's 2-1 defeat to nearest challengers Manchester City, Liverpool's first loss in the Premier League this season, will have focused their minds even more on the title battle.

Jurgen Klopp also has the Champions League to consider next month and, while he would rather progress than suffer elimination, Liverpool's team selection is set to reflect the FA Cup is their lowest priority.

Liverpool have not covered themselves in glory in the FA Cup anyway in recent years, needing two bites to see off Exeter and Plymouth since the start of 2016 as well as suffering exits at the hands of West Ham, West Brom and Wolves, who were then a Sky Bet Championship outfit.

Wolves are now very much part of the Premier League party, tucked in ninth spot following on from last season's promotion.

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Wanderers have been a touch inconsistent in terms of results and a synopsis of their season could be seen in matches either side of the new year as Nuno's men beat Tottenham at Wembley before losing at home to Crystal Palace

Wolves were nowhere near their best against Palace, perhaps as a consequence of the mental and physical energy exerted in beating Tottenham to go with the raucous post-match celebrations.

As Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said: "Wolves beat us and behaved like they had won the Premier League."

The counter-attacking qualities Wolves highlighted against Spurs could come in handy in this cup tie as Nuno's men aim to continue their impressive record against the big six this season.

Tottenham and Chelsea have been beaten and Wolves so nearly added Arsenal to that list in a 1-1 draw. They have also shared the spoils with Manchester City and Manchester United.

Liverpool were 2-0 winners at Molineux last month thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, two of the several star names more likely to be rested for this assignment.

Wolves still put on a decent show, particularly in the first half of that defeat, and could take advantage of Liverpool's shortage of defensive numbers due to injuries as well as the decision to loan Nathaniel Clyne to Bournemouth.

Fabinho, Naby Keita, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno and Xherdan Shaqiri were on the bench at City on Thursday so Liverpool still possess plenty of depth in most positions but the side will possibly lack continuity.


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Match in Focus

20:00 TODAY BT3

Chelsea v Slavia Prague

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Chelsea have hit 14 goals in five Europa home games.
Expert verdict
Defeat against Liverpool on Sunday saw Chelsea’s top-four hopes take a hit and that adds further importance to this Europa League quarter-final. The Blues, who won 1-0 in Prague last week, should stamp their class on this contest and look worth backing giving up a goal on the handicap.