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Liverpool and AFC Wimbledon clash in repeat of ’88 FA Cup final

AFC Wimbledon are 11/1 with Coral to defeat Liverpool in 90 minutes and progress from the third round of the FA Cup.

It has been a long journey for the supporter-owned club, and not just in the FA Cup this season. Their last remarkable high the club experienced was before they split, and fans rejected the FA-sanctioned franchise to Milton Keynes, to instead form AFC Wimbledon, was way back in 1988.

In fact, it was the FA Cup final against Liverpool no less, when midfielder Lawrie Sanchez scored to win the ‘Crazy Gang’ as they were known, one of the most iconic trophies in football.

There is no doubting the fact that the same spirit endures within the football club, and it should be evident for all to see against Liverpool. They aren’t exactly struggling for goals this term, and with 15-goal striker Matt Tubbs firing, who has a couple of strikes in this competition already, plus Adebayo Akinfenwa who has an eight goal haul, the Reds rearguard might have their work cut out.

The duo are 4/1 and 5/1 respectively to hit the back of the net anytime, and both scored recently in the club’s recent 4-1 demolition of Exeter in their last match.

No doubt the hero of ’88, Sanchez will be in the crowd, and he has spoken of his admiration of Wimbledon’s rise back to the football league and the stubbornness of the supporters who rejected the FA decision.

“These were our fans,” he said. “They weren’t prepared to put up with the club being moved and what they have done is probably the best achievement in football since the old Wimbledon. When I go, there is a unique feeling at the club: it’s a people’s club.”

This much should at least be evident against Brendan Rodgers’ Reds, who will visit now fully aware that their much-loved skipper, and a hero of the FA Cup himself, Steven Gerrard is leaving at the end of the season. It will be his first game since his announcement, and can look back fondly on the competition.

His goal against West Ham in 2006 will go down in history as one of the best Cup Final goals ever scored. He is 6/4 to be among the scoring anytime and it will be interesting to see how fans react to his news. Rodgers will be hoping that a number of his players who haven’t fared well this season can use this match as a platform to push on.

Striker Mario Balotelli’s time is running out, and Rodgers’ patience will soon wear thin with the Italian, who is 3/1 to open the scoring, meanwhile Raheem Sterling has gone off the boil recently, and despite netting the winner against Burnley, needs to be more consistent. He is also 3/1 to break the deadlock, though Rodgers may utilise Rickie Lambert’s lower league experience, which could be crucial in a match like this. The former Saints striker is 7/2 to score two or more.

Despite the history of the tie, this might be the beginning of the end for Gerrard. How fitting it would be if the club can send him off with another FA Cup winners medal.