All-change for Liverpool as Premier League clubs rotate in FA Cup
Runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool named an entirely changed starting line-up for their FA Cup fourth-round tie at Shrewsbury as top-flight sides made over six alterations on average.
The Reds sit 16 points clear at the league summit with a game in hand but, given their continued participation in other competitions, manager Jurgen Klopp opted to make wholesale changes.
All 11 of the team that started the 2-1 win over Wolves on Thursday dropped out as a mixture of fringe players and youth talent took centre-stage.
Klopp’s young side looked to be getting the job done as they went 2-0 up through Curtis Jones’ opener and Donald Love’s own goal right at the start of the second half, but substitute Jason Cummings was introduced on the hour mark and bagged a brace to earn the Shrews a replay.
With Arsenal travelling to face Bournemouth on Monday night, the 12 Premier League sides to have already played in the fourth round made on average 6.25 changes to the team that started their previous match.
After Liverpool it was Leicester who made the next highest number of alterations of the top-flight sides in action over the weekend as Brendan Rodgers shuffled his pack for the trip to Brentford.
The Foxes, showing nine changes with only Caglar Soyuncu and Ayoze Perez retained from the midweek win over West Ham, still had enough to secure a 1-0 win through Kelechi Iheanacho’s early effort.
Fellow top-four sides Chelsea and Manchester City made eight changes apiece for their ties against Sky Bet Championship opposition.
Frank Lampard handed a rare start to Michy Batshuayi at Hull and he provided the opening goal, with recalled defender Fikayo Tomori also finding the back of the net in a 2-1 victory which saw only Cesar Azpilicueta, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi keep their spots.
City cruised through at home to Fulham, largely thanks to an early red card for Tim Ream.
Pep Guardiola followed Lampard’s lead by naming just three of the side who started the Premier League win over Sheffield United.
Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty against the Blades but made up for that by notching a double in a 4-0 success, with Riyad Mahrez and Nicolas Otamendi also included once again.
The fewest changes came from Tottenham, with Jose Mourinho potentially identifying the FA Cup as his best chance of landing his first trophy at the club.
But things did not go to plan at in-form Southampton as Spurs, with only three changes from their last league outing against Norwich, were pegged back late on to draw 1-1.
New signing Gedson Fernandes made his full debut as Davinson Sanchez and Japhet Tanganga also started, with Southampton’s four alterations seeing Danny Ings return but unable to add to his impressive recent scoring record.
Manchester United, losers at home to Burnley on Wednesday night and with the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against neighbours City coming up, showed six changes at Tranmere.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have still been after a response and he got just that as the Red Devils romped to a 6-0 win on a poor pitch – Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood all finding the back of the net on their returns to the starting XI.
Fresh from that famous win at Old Trafford, Burnley boss Sean Dyche made five changes of his own as the Clarets were beaten at home by the Premier League’s bottom side Norwich, who themselves rotated seven players.
West Ham, struggling for league form, somewhat surprisingly made only the four changes but were still beaten 1-0 at home by Championship leaders West Brom.
Sheffield United and Newcastle made five alterations apiece but fared differently in their respective ties.
The Blades won 2-0 at Millwall despite changing half of their outfield players but Steve Bruce’s Newcastle were held at home to a goalless draw by League One play-off hopefuls Oxford.