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Liverpool beware! Exeter City have rocked a North West giant before

Grecian spirit - can Exeter repeat that Old Trafford upset? Credit: PA Images

It may be far from home but the North West is very familiar to Exeter City.

In fact the region was the scene of one of the club's greatest days. Back in January 2005 the Grecians shocked Liverpool's great rivals Manchester United just 30 miles down the M62 at Old Trafford, achieving a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Sir Alex Ferguson and his team.

This afternoon many Exeter fans are arriving at Manchester Airport on the long journey to Anfield. As they pass through the city, many may well remember that day and take heart from a performance that, if replicated, could mean another massive FA Cup shock tonight.

Exeter's players celebrate in front of their fans after a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Manchester United. Credit: PA Images

That Manchester United side, like Liverpool's tonight, was made up mainly of young players. Many of them have gone on to play at the very highest level, winning some of football's greatest trophies and awards. The team the Grecians faced that night included:

  • Gerard Pique, the 3-time Champions league winner with Barcelona and World Cup winning centre-back with Spain.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, the four-time World Footballer of the Year and Real Madrid's record goal-scorer.
  • Paul Scholes, one of Manchester United's longest-serving players and part of a team that won 11 Premier League titles.
The final score on a famous night at Old Trafford. Credit: PA Images
A young Cristiano Ronaldo and a young Gerard Pique were among the players to face Exeter back in 2005. Both have gone on to become some of the world's greatest footballers. Credit: PA Images

So what are the chances of an upset of that magnitude tonight?

Back at St James' Park in the first encounter between these two teams, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp put his trust in a young and inexperienced side, and they almost left red-faced.

The German has insisted he will rely on his youngsters again tonight, saying his players would not be under pressure despite the tag of favourites:

"I don't want to put too much pressure on their shoulders because they are too young."

"I think all these players are very excited. For some of them, it's the first time in the starting line-up at Anfield, which is a special place for footballers all over the world."

"I'm really looking forward [to it] for them because they get this opportunity."

– Jurgen Klopp
In the original tie with Liverpool, Exeter shocked the giants and almost left them red-faced. Here Lee Holmes celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's second goal. Credit: PA Images

"The pitch was really difficult [at St James Park] but for both teams. Exeter did better on this pitch but maybe they are more used to it - but now we play at Anfield and I would say we don't have to think too much about the first game."

"I think it's a big chance we can show the young boys that we trust them. I think it's very important, it's a real competition against a good team."

"It's a real man's competition. Now I know more about League Two players to be honest because before I didn't know."

– Jurgen Klopp
But Jurgen Klopp's side were not to be beaten, salvaging a 2-2 draw late on. Credit: PA Images

Perhaps Liverpool will be more assured this time round, on home soil and with a second chance to get the job done. But the magic of the FA Cup means Exeter have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will put his trust in the young guns again. Credit: PA Images

Boss Paul Tisdale said his side must be practical but play with no fear at Anfield:

"As much as we were delighted with the draw in the first game, it was tinged slightly by the fact that we had the lead with 15 minutes to go."

"We have to be practical and we have to be very considered about the performance that we need to give, in order to give us the best chance of progressing.

"We have to adapt, and it's not just about being 100% committed, it's about understanding the environment. We have to make the most of it. We're going to enjoy it; we have nothing to lose."

– Paul Tisdale, Exeter City manager
Never short of support, just as at Old Trafford, Exeter will bring a stellar crowd to Anfield. Credit: PA Images

Just as at Old Trafford 11 years ago the Grecians will not be short of support. 6000 fans are making the journey to Liverpool on buses, planes and trains.

If their side can overcome the odds tonight it may just beat their last FA Cup trip to the North West.

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