Mansfield Town vs. Liverpool
FA Cup Third Round
Sunday, January 6, kickoff 4 p.m. (UK) / 11 a.m. (ET)
Having managed to put back-to-back wins together in the Premier League and move up into eighth position, Liverpool this weekend will turn their attentions to the FA Cup and a trip to Mansfield Town.
The Reds reached the final of this competition last season, defeating the likes of Manchester United and Everton along the way, but lost out in disappointing fashion to Chelsea, falling 2-1 at Wembley.
First up this year for Brendan Rodgers' team as it aims to go one better than last season is a visit to Field Mill against Blue Square Premier League side Mansfield, who currently lie in ninth position in England's fifth tier of football.
That places The Stags a full 93 places below their Premier League rivals on the day—a true David-and-Goliath encounter for the season.
Liverpool have been somewhat inconsistent over the first half of the league campaign but have put together a much stronger run recently—six wins from the past eight matches gives hope for the future.
The Reds have scored 34 goals in their 21 league games so far, averaging 1.6 goals per game overall, but the last seven weeks have seen a big improvement in this regard.
Since the start of December the Reds have averaged 2.3 goals per game in the league, including scoring three or more in four of their last six matches.
Mansfield have relied on their home form to keep them reasonably high up the league table; only three teams in the division have taken more points than The Stags at home—but their away form is woeful, winning just 11 points from 10 games so far. They have the fourth-worst away record in the Blue Square Premier League.
Despite sitting in ninth Mansfield concede a lot of goals—an average of 1.5 per game.
They will have to hope to improve in this area on the day to have a chance against the Reds.
Mansfield will likely play their strongest team as they look to cause an upset and will perhaps take heart and inspiration from Bradford City, who earlier this season defeated Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.
Forwards Jake Speight and Matt Green have hit eight goals apiece this term and should lead the line if fit.
Goalkeeper Alan Marriott is a stalwart of the lower leagues, having played for almost a decade at Lincoln City earlier in his career, and he is one of the group of stoppers to have had an impact at the other end of the pitch—he scored a goal against Wrexham at the end of last season.
Also watch out for the magnificently named defender Exodus Geohaghon, a burly beast of a defender who spent time with Peterborough United in the Championship.
Liverpool are likely to shuffle their starting lineup a little, with new signing Daniel Sturridge almost certain to make his debut at some point.
Youngsters Suso and Andre Wisdom will hope to figure, with Nuri Sahin, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Robinson also all hoping for recalls.
The Reds have a full week before their next fixture in the league, which is a trip to Manchester United, so Brendan Rodgers may not make too many alterations to his strongest team.
Liverpool are of course heavy favourites to win the match and progress to Round 4. Much will depend on the state of the pitch and the focus of the Premier League side, and with the television cameras at the game, the home team will hope for a big upset.
If the Reds perform to their capabilities though there could well be a huge scoreline, especially if top scorer Luis Suarez takes the field.
Prediction: Mansfield 0, Liverpool 5
Bleacher Report will have live text commentary of this FA Cup fixture. Stay tuned to the website for details!