So the FA Cup semi final at Wembley against Everton, a season defining game we are lead to believe, as if doing well in the rest of our league doesn’t matter.
Alan Davies was misjudged in his Twitter comments about the timing of this game and Hillsborough. However, for entirely different reasons many in Liverpool will also wonder just what the FA are playing at. To schedule a game in London between two clubs from the North West at 12-30pm on Saturday morning seems to be boneheaded in the extreme.
Wembley is fast becoming the venue of FA Cup semi final which, to a degree, takes some of the magic out the final itself, in period when the competition needs it most. What is wrong with holding the game at Old Trafford which would be easier for both sets of fans to reach? No doubt the FA will come up with some lame excuse which hides the real fact that Wembley cost too much to build and that they need to use it as much as possible to recoup those costs! TV scheduling also pitches in to complete a thoroughly unacceptable arrangement where consideration for fans is, as always, in last place.
This game is significant but rather than defining our season it is the last chance to salvage something, to put some form of gloss on the curate’s egg? However, Steven Gerrard seems to think it could be the start of good things
“For everyone at this club and everyone at Everton, it’s a massive game. It could change our season for the best.”
Quite how this will manifest itself is interesting given the fact that we only have five league fixtures left! Rather than this I suspect most of the focus will be on money and the contrast between our frugal, penny wise neighbours and the way they’ve enhanced their squad with money found down the back of Bill Kenwright’s sofa whilst we’ve splashed cash like water in pre hose pipe ban days and paid over the odds for all and sundry. There are examples which back this up I’m afraid. Nikica Jelavic, a transfer window signing has scored six goals for Everton in ten appearances, Andy Carroll, who cost over four times as much, has seven in 41 games! No doubt the subject will have added resonance because of Thursday’s announcement that Damien Comolli, who had a big say in our transfer targets, is to leave the club?
Nonetheless in terms of ninety minutes (or more?) these are mere statistics which will have no bearing on the result. Perhaps more significant from our point of view is the position of goalkeeper. The FA have rejected our appeal re Doni’s red card and we’ve recalled Peter Gulacsi from his loan spell at Hull City which his just as well neither John Burridge, Neville Southall or Andy Goram could be tempted out of retirement!
For Brad Jones it represents a great opportunity that he could not have envisaged particularly when he was going through his own personal tragedy last year. It’s unfair to judge Jones on Tuesday’s performance where I’m sure nerves played a part. It promises to be more fraught in that department today and this will be just his second appearance for us. On the positive side cup competitions are full of so called “underdogs”, many of them keepers, who have stepped up to the plate, performed beyond expectations and done their club proud. I wish him the best of luck.
Team wise and aside from the keeper issue Kenny appears to have few problems particularly as Agger and Johnson returned from injury on Tuesday. Maxi, after his two goals on Tuesday, should be in contention however I suspect he was bought so other players could rest? Elsewhere apparently JW Henry is unavailable he’s gone to Boston to watch the rounders, a prior engagement or a statement about where the FA Cup lies in his priorities?
Prediction? Everton assistant Manager Steve Round believes we are favourites
“Liverpool are favourites, they’ve got so many great players. But a semi-final at Wembley is a one-off, and a local derby is a one-off. It’s all on the day.”
He would say that but despite us doing the double over Everton this season, I think this will difficult to call. Both clubs sit alongside each other in the league and although Everton’s form has been good recently, we must have gained confidence from Tuesday. However, the side we face tomorrow will be stronger than the one we beat so easily at Anfield last month? I suspect, given our well publicised woes, Everton scent a great opportunity but I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve faced them when our form hasn’t been good or they’ve been above us in the table and we’ve beaten them!
We just need to concentrate, keep calm, keep everyone on the pitch, hope Brad Jones is OK and, above all, stick the bleeding ball in the net when we get the chance! Hope springs eternal so I’ll say 2-1 to us.