Sunday’s meeting with Norwich City was supposed to be the springboard that, on the back of the first of a four match run at Anfield, catapulted Liverpool’s season back into orbit. Danny Ings broke his Reds duck less than three-minutes after the break, but Canaries captain Russell Martin tore up the script and levelled proceedings just past the hour mark to snag a battling point on Merseyside.
This, of course, left their hosts without a win in over a month and only served to heap even more pressure on Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. While no one will be forgetting that anytime soon, mercifully for him, the Reds are back in action on Wednesday night when they take on League Two side Carlisle United in the third round of the League Cup — something the Northern Irishman will hope will be a healthy distraction from their woes in the top-flight.
With all due respect, despite their well documented problems in the league, the Anfield outfit come into this one heavy favourites while the Cumbrians will be looking to kill themselves a giant. To be fair, there might not be a better time to have a crack at doing just that. For all the improvement we saw in the meeting with Norwich on Sunday, the results — which ultimately are what matter — again left us wanting.
While Liverpool should be able to navigate the meeting with Carlisle without quite as much fuss, they’ll likely be doing it with a vastly different side than the one that ran out on Sunday with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, who made his first appearance since April, Christian Benteke, who felt his hamstring and was replaced at half time, Philippe Coutinho, who could use a break, Martin Skrtel, who has looked distracted as of late, and Simon Mignolet, whose poor punch lead to the Canaries equalizer, all likely to sit this one out.
Ings, the Reds lone goalscorer at the weekend, could be drafted into the starting eleven along with Belgian striker Divock Origi if Rodgers decides to employ the same formation he used against Norwich. Roberto Firmino could also be recalled to the fold in place of his compatriot after making only a cameo appearance on Sunday while Dejan Lovren could come in at the back in front of Hungarian ‘keeper Adam Bogdan. A number of other youngsters and fringe players could also be called into the mix with Jordan Rossiter, João Carlos Teixeira and Pedro Chiverella itching for a starting berth.
The Cumbrians, on the other hand, aren’t likely to be fielding a weakened team, but they will be looking to do better than they did in their last outing against York. Carrying a two goal advantage with less than 20-minutes left to play and a man to the good after striker Vadaine Oliver was sent for an early bath, Carlisle boss Keith Curle could only watch on in horror as their hosts found the net twice in as many minutes to send Bootham Crescent into absolute bedlam.
To be fair, the Englishman’s post match interview sounded a bit like Rodgers with words like “disappointed” and “anxious” being thrown around in equal measure, but despite all that, he’ll be happy to see Newcastle United loanee Alex Gilliead pick up an assist in his first outing for his side with the youngster setting up Tom Miller for the opener just before the half hour mark. Troy Archibald-Henville would add another just shy of the half-time whistle, but what came after that he won’t be quite as keen to discuss.
Sitting in tenth place in League Two, which, surprisingly, is only a mere four points off leaders Leyton Orient, Carlisle have a little bit more to be cheery about, but after falling to pieces at the weekend, Curle — much like Rodgers — will be looking to the cup as a welcome distraction. It’s unlikely that anyone will be calling for his head if he doesn’t win though; his counterpart, even if his side move on to the next round, won’t have that same luxury.