FORMER Anfield winger John Barnes says minnows Mansfield can shatter the footballing odds and beat Liverpool on Sunday.
Lowly Stags face the Premier League giants and seven-times FA Cup winners at the One Call Stadium in front of a sell-out crowd and worldwide television audience.
But, despite Liverpool’s improved form which has seen them defeat QPR and Sunderland 3-0 in their last two outings, Barnes believes Mansfield can give the glamorous giants a run for their money.
“It is going to be a tough game for Liverpool. Mansfield will be up for the game and looking to make home advantage count,” he said.
“Mansfield are like a league club to me, it does not seem right that they are in the Blue Square Premier, they want to get back into the league as soon as possible.
“Liverpool will probably make a few changes, like they did against West Brom in the Capital One Cup. Liverpool won that game and Rodgers will have faith in his squad.”
Barnes, ESPN analyst, added: “Mansfield is a different type of ground to West Brom and the fans will be right on top of the players.
“Mansfield cannot outplay Liverpool, they have to come out of the blocks fast and be physical. They have to do all they can to make things uncomfortable for Liverpool, such as making the dressing rooms cold before the game.”
Barnes won the FA Cup with Liverpool in 1989 against Everton and 1992 against Sunderland during an illustrious career, which saw him capped 79 times by England.
And the former Celtic manager knows only too well the perils of cup giants underestimating lower league teams after his Celtic side were famously knocked out of the Scottish Cup in February 2000 by Inverness.
“The cup is all about the third round, semi-final and the final for me. The third round is brilliant because of ties like this,” said Barnes. “I have seen some great FA Cup matches down the years and there is no reason why this match cannot be similar.
“When Inverness beat us they were in the division below and were promoted that season. Anything can happen in football. Every year the FA Cup throws up shocks. The ideal result for Mansfield would be a draw and then a money-spinning replay at Anfield.”
Sutton United were the last non-league side to defeat a top flight team when they beat Coventry City 2-1 in 1989
Barnes began his playing career in 1981 with Watford and played 233 times for the Vicarage Road club over six seasons.
He then joined Liverpool in 1987 and went on to play 314 times for the Anfield club, going on to win the First Division title in the 1987–88 and 1989–90 seasons.
After retiring as a player, Barnes had a brief stint as head coach of Celtic in 1999–2000, working alongside Kenny Dalglish. He took over as manager of the Jamaica national team in 2008, but resigned six months later to become manager at Tranmere Rovers.
ESPN will air live and exclusive coverage of three FA Cup Third Round games this weekend: including Mansfield Town v Liverpool at 3.45pm on Sunday. Visit ESPN.co.uk/tv for details