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FA Cup Preview: Blackburn vs Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool will hope to return to winning ways when they visit Ewood Park for an FA Cup quarter-final replay against Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday.

The Reds were held to a 0-0 draw in the original fixture at Anfield almost a month ago.

Prior to that game, Brendan Rodgers’ side were flying both domestically and in the FA Cup but that stalemate marked the beginning of a dip in form at a critical time for Liverpool.

The Reds followed that with an unconvincing win at Swansea, where they were out-played in the first-half, before defeats to top-four rivals Manchester United and Arsenal. That recent run means Liverpool come into this game sitting fifth in the Premier League – seven points outside the top-four.

On top of their fading Champions League qualification hopes, Liverpool have key personnel missing due to suspensions and injuries, plus Rodgers had to deny reports of dressing room rift after they suffered a 4-1 humbling at Arsenal.

A win in this game though could be a turning point for Liverpool as they would book a place at Wembley for the semi-finals, where they will be favourites to go all the way.

Blackburn also find themselves in a similar position domestically as they have lost two of their last three games leaving Gary Bowyer’s men 10th in the Championship table. Rovers are now 14 points away from the promotion play-off places.

They will still approach this game with some confidence after defeating Swansea City and Stoke City on their way to the quarter-finals. Bowyer is also hopeful that the pitch at Ewood Park will help his side because Liverpool should find it harder to impose their usual game-plan.

Rudy Gestede, Chris Brown, Simon Eastwood and Chris Taylor are all doubts while Craig Conway, Grant Hanley, Josh King and David Dunn are sidelined.

Former Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing is cup-tied, while Paul Taylor, David Raya and John O’Sullivan are also ineligible.

Mario Balotelli (knee) and Adam Lallana (groin) are doubts for this clash.

Liverpool will be without Steven Gerrard, Martin Skrtel and Emre Can, who are all suspended.

Jordan Rhodes is in good form after scoring his 17th goal of the season against Leeds so he will probably partner Rudy Gestede up top in a 4-4-2 formation. Corry Evans and Lee Williamson may be the sitting midfielders allowing the wide midfielders – Tom Cairney and possibly Ben Marshall – to join the strikers in direct attacks.

Liverpool should keep faith in their usual 3-4-3 formation. Injuries and suspensions may force Rodgers to retain the majority of the players who started at the Emirates Stadium despite the disappointing defeat.

Daniel Sturridge could return to the starting line-up though. The England international could lead the attack, with Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho as the wide forwards. At the back, Dejan Lovren may get a rare start as one of the three central defenders since both Can and Skrtel are suspended.

After a cautious approach at the Emirates, Liverpool should revert back to their high pressing game and enjoy more possession despite the concerns about the Ewood Park pitch.

Both sides are struggling for form so Liverpool’s quality could be the decisive factor though Rodgers’ men should fight it difficult to penetrate the Rovers again.

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