LIVERPOOL made it clear this week that the FA Cup hardly matters to them.
It may be the foundation stone of football itself — but on Monday it appeared to have all the relevance of an historic pile of masonry.
PA:Empics Sport6 Liverpool showed their priority this season was not the FA Cup as they fielded a weakened team at Wolves
Getty Images – Getty6 Leicester City came unstuck by League Two side Newport County in the shock of the round
I understand why clubs with a chance of winning the title, gaining promotion, or holding off relegation should be very careful about over-taxing their players after a bruising round of holiday matches.
You don’t have to be an accountant to judge that winning the FA Cup and being rewarded with around £3million doesn’t begin to compare with the riches on offer in the Premier League.
Not to mention the possibility of profit in the Champions League.
Even big losers can be financial winners. Relegated Stoke received £3.8m for being 19th and a further £95m from TV and central sponsors.
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I doubt if manager Jurgen Klopp is too worried about the bundle that will go to Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group.
He has eyes only for winning the club’s first title for 29 years — and his demeanour on the Molineux touchline suggested that being beaten by Wolves in the third round wasn’t exactly a catastrophe.
The fact defeat also revealed his reserve strength is not in the same street as that of the Manchester clubs or Chelsea could be relevant by the end of the season.
Second-string City sides scored 16 times without reply against Rotherham and then Burton. And guessing Klopp’s intentions, Wolves fielded pretty well all of their first team.
Getty Images – Getty6 The Foxes were one of the teams that should have gone all out to try and win the FA Cup – a trophy they have never lifted
AFC Bournemouth – Getty6 Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe made nine changes for the Brighton clash and was duly punished by the Seagulls
The surprising thing is that not many middle-ranking Prem teams take such advantage.
Does anyone from Manchester United down to Brighton have better things to do than win the Cup? I have a chart showing how many first-team players were missing from each club in the third round.
It doesn’t say how many were injured — and how West Ham had six out I have no idea — but at least it provides some sort of guidance.
Watford were so cocky about winning that 11 players sat out at non-league Woking. No doubt the over-confident managers of Bournemouth, Huddersfield (both nine), Cardiff and Leicester (both seven) and Fulham (six) also reasoned there was a bigger battle to be won.