Barnsley, and then safe path into Inter?

FA Cup 5th Round day and what, on paper, should be an easy tie against Barnsley. However, when it comes to easy ties in the 2008 FA Cup we have become very adept at making them look hard! Just look at the stats, Barnsley are only 29 places below us as opposed to Havent and Waterloo who were 123 places below and Luton who were 50 odd so there you go, it promises to be a sterner test!!!! How many times will the word “BARNstorming” be used this weekend? Lets hope we win well and it’s “BARNey Rubble”!

We do need to take this seriously. We have Inter Milan the following Tuesday so I suppose this could be critical week for our season. Inevitably Rafa will be looking to Europe, “when isn’t he” detractors will doubtlessly say, and presumably this will be reflected in today’s line up

I need to consider both games but I know it’s important to progress in the FA Cup, so I will try to use a strong team,”

“Try” to use a strong team. Hmmmm.

Barnsley fans will have good memories of their last visit to Anfield in the league when they won 1-0 in 1997. I have a vivid memory of the last time we played Barnsley in the FA Cup, it was at Oakwell the sixth round in 1984-85. We won 4-0 with Ian Rush getting a hat trick. The other memory apart from it being a miserable overcast day, was a banner which one of our fans had bought into the ground. It said “Ron Atkinson has aids”. Today such a banner would have confiscated by stewards, and quite rightly so, however I was told it could be clearly seen on TV for the entre game. Poor taste I agree but quite mild considering some of the other Anti Manc stuff that was going around at that time!

Who will Rafa pick? Rather than being down to the bare bones in some positions as he was against Chelsea last weekend, Rafa has quiet a few players jumping off the sick bed. Aurelio, and Arbeloa have returned to training so presumably could feature. Sami Hyypia is also back and a good job too as Skrtel has damaged his calf. The biggest boost is the return of Torres from what looked like a bad hamstring strain last week. However, as mentioned in a previous piece, I cannot see Rafa risking him for today’s game and he has basically warned us that this will be the case.

“Now it is about whether we will take the risk or not. For Inter, Torres will be okay. We will have to check before Barnsley.”

Although we should take due care for the Inter game, the FA Cup arguably represents our best chance of silverware this season. With one of the big four certain to be eliminated when The Mancs play Arsenal the way should be even clearer for progress?

Looking at BBC website I was quite surprised to see the following stats about us. Apparently we’ve only lost one of the last 12 games in league and cup. However, as we all know many of them have been draws. Despite this, and I don’t know why, I’ve a feeling we may have started to turn a corner over the last week or so and that form will look up and just at the right time!

From unsubstantiated, ill considered bull*hit to the game. This isn’t meant to belittle Barnsleys chances, we must be aware, but I suspect Rafa’s priority must be to get though with the minimum injury. Personally I’d like to see him field his strongest side and then make substitutions if, and I repeat if, he can. However, with Milan looming I doubt we will see that. Fielding a weaker side may minimize injury but there is a risk the hassle could be increased?

Prediction, let’s just hope we do the job with the minimum of fuss and controversy. 3-0 but above all, let’s hope all come through unscathed for Tuesday.

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