Shrewsbury boss Sam Ricketts wants his side to face the full force of world and European champions Liverpool in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp made a number of changes for his side’s 1-0 win over rivals Everton in the third round and Ricketts could be forgiven for hoping to see another weakened team at Montgomery Waters Meadow this weekend, but instead he wants to see a team sheet full of star names.
“Genuinely,” Ricketts said. “I’d always rather play against the best. I’ve said as a player you want to play against the best and we’re no different now.
“Whichever team Liverpool put out there is going to be some great players, no doubting that.
“But what better experience than to play against the very, very best that are currently head and shoulders above everyone else in the country.”
Shrewsbury drew 2-2 with Premier League Wolves at this stage of the competition last year before losing the replay at Molineux and are adamant they feel no fear of facing Klopp’s all-conquering side.
Fifty-nine places separate the two teams in the leagues but given the gulf between Liverpool and the rest of the Premier League this season, the distance between them and Ricketts’ League One side is immeasurable.
The fixture, reward for Aaron Pierre’s dramatic late winner against Bristol City in last week’s third-round replay, is therefore a truly daunting one but Ricketts said he would treat it like any other match.
“We’ll prepare exactly the same for this game as for every game, watching three, four, five or six games,” he said.
“We pick out clips we feel are relevant to tell the players. We absorb everything then try to dilute it back to the players.
“We give them a 15-minute meeting – ‘This is what they do and this is what we do to stop it. This is how we can hurt them and this is how they can hurt us’.
“Liverpool are no different. The problem is, whereas some have two or three ways of hurting you, these have five or six.
“You have to respect all of them. Nullify them best we can and try to focus on us a little bit and what we do.
“Our way of playing won’t change for this game from any other.”
Ricketts is no stranger to a big occasion, having earned 52 caps for Wales and played in the Premier League for both Hull and Bolton during his career.
But for the younger members of his Shrewsbury squad, the challenge will be channelling the obvious excitement of a big FA Cup tie into a good performance.
“There’s no motivation required for the players,” Rickett said. “As players there are days you need a warm-up to be ready to play. I can guarantee you these lads won’t need a warm-up.
“They would just be able to turn up, put a kid on and play straight away because the adrenaline will be running and they will be ready.
“If anything you probably need to keep them a little calmer, do a bit less because mentally they would have been ready for it for 24 or 48 hours before the game.
“It’s keeping it very calm, keeping instructions very clear and ultimately you want them to enjoy it.”
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