FA Cup brings more pressure for ailing Liverpool
The FA Cup regularly gives under-pressure managers an opportunity to forget about Premier League problems for a few days with the prospect of a comfortable win against a lowly opponent.
But while Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham take on second- or third-tier sides in this weekend's third round, underperforming Liverpool heads to Old Trafford on Sunday to face Premier League leader and record 11-time FA Cup winner Manchester United.
It's hardly an ideal fixture for Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, who is under huge pressure after Wednesday's ninth league defeat of the season left his team four points above the relegation zone.
Hodgson can only hope the occasion rouses his players.
"It'll be the next performance which could change things," Hodgson said.
Hodgson has some grounds for optimism - after all, Liverpool held United 2-2 before conceding an 84th-minute winner at Old Trafford in September - but Liverpool's recent performances have been poor.
Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to Blackburn led to renewed chants by fans against Hodgson, who has struggled to meet expectations of supporters used to regular cup success and top-four finishes.
United did lose to another traditional rival at the same stage last season, but that 1-0 win for Leeds has simply made manager Alex Ferguson even more determined to avoid a repeat of that shock.
"It was a bad result last season against Leeds, especially considering the rivalry between the two clubs," Ferguson said. "In hindsight, I could have picked a stronger team. I won't be making that mistake this time."
Ferguson rested several players for Tuesday's 2-1 Premier League win over Stoke, so the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Anderson and Edwin van der Sar could all return to face Liverpool.
With Wayne Rooney carrying an ankle injury, the England striker may again sit out a match in favor of Mexico international Javier Hernandez, who took his season tally to nine goals with the opener against Stoke.
Also Sunday, Chelsea hosts Ipswich, Manchester City is at Leicester, and Tottenham hosts Charlton.
Chelsea desperately needs a morale-boosting win after slipping out of the Premier League's top four with a run of 10 points from 11 matches.