Injury-ravaged Liverpool face a tricky FA Cup third-round tie against Exeter on Friday night.
Since 1992/93 Premier League teams have won 79% of their 80 FA Cup matches against sides from the fourth tier (W63-D10-L7), though this drops to 71% (W30-D8-L4) when they are on the road as the bigger names have sometimes struggled at the smaller grounds and often poorer surfaces.
Liverpool’s last FA Cup game against League Two opposition was a hard fought 2-1 win at AFC Wimbledon at this stage a year ago that featured a Steven Gerrard double. They don’t have the best of records against lower league opposition with seven exits to such teams in the last 23 years and in nine trips to teams from outside the top flight since 2007/08 they’ve never scored more than twice. Coming into this match on the back of some disappointing away form that has featured just two goals in six trips since putting six past Southampton at the start of December the Jurgen Klopp factor looks to have worn off and they continue to look short of form and confidence, particularly when going forward. They did win at Stoke on Tuesday evening but any confidence from that will have come at a significant cost as Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren both limped off.
The good news for Reds fans’ is that Exeter’s confidence must also be very low after losing their last four League Two matches. Their home form isn’t any better either as they’ve won just once in their last seven at St James Park, though the distraction of this glamour tie has arguably been one of the reasons behind their slump and they may well return to their best here. Exeter haven’t reached the 4th round of the Cup for over 20 years but they did almost pull off one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history, when holding Man Utd to a draw at Old Trafford in 2004/05, the last time they reached this stage.
With the disparity between the teams in the matchup between Premier and League Two sides it would be reasonable to expect some high scoring encounters, and when the Premier League team has been at home 71% have had at least three goals. However, on the road is a very different story, as just 52% have landed for Over 2.5 Goals backers. More recently, these matches have tended towards goals at either end though, and the last nine such 3rd Round trips have all seen both teams score.
Liverpool’s current struggles in front of goal mean we’ll leave the scoring markets alone but with the Reds having faced a midweek League Cup semi-final and then hosting Arsenal next Wednesday in a crucial match there looks to be every chance that they won’t be fully focussed on this game. In contrast, there will be no questions about the Grecians preparations and they have every chance of covering the +1.5 handicap, as the League Two side has done on 17 of 29 occasions at home against Premier League sides in the 3rd Round of the Cup since 1992/93.
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