For the third time in it’s history the FA Cup Semi-Finals see two local derbies back-to-back, with rivals from Liverpool and London both trying to book their place in the final of the FA Cup. A competition that all four clubs will consider winnable the FA Cup could change the season of all still involved into a success, but who will get this chance and a second trip to Wembley?
Everton – Liverpool
A great time honoured local rivalry that will see blue and red descend on London in swarms on Saturday lunch time. A lot has been made of the shocking form of Liverpool in the league, which has seen them slip from top four challengers to 8th, with their main goal now finishing above Everton. Whilst the form must be demoralising for the red side of Liverpool I do not believe it will be playing on the minds of the club too strongly, this is a Cup game and one thing that Kenny Dalglish has done this season is made Liverpool a threat in the cup, knocking out the likes of Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea across the Carling and FA Cup. One big hitch that Dalglish did not foresee is the goalkeeping crisis the club find themselves in, with Reina being sent off for a headbutt on Newcastle defender Perch and Doni seeing red against Blackburn in the week attention has turned to Australian shot stopper, Brad Jones. The thirty year old does have bundles of experience, and did save a penalty against former Middlesborough teamate Yakubu in the week (albeit a rather tame penalty) however he also conceded a second penalty in a moment of calamity and whilst his experience might help him deal with simple crosses and shots it is a huge lack of match practice that might see him caught out in London. Liverpool will go into this game drawing confidence from the fact that Everton have failed to beat Liverpool in the last six derbies, losing two already this season, plus they have already experienced Wembley this season in the Carling Cup Final, however they did not play very well against Championship side Cardiff that day.
Everton go into the match on the back of a 4-0 thumping of Sunderland, which would have done them a world of good, as whilst since 1st of January Everton have been the 5th best club in the league, and Liverpool are 19th on form since the same day, the recent 3-0 defeat at the hands of a superb Steven Gerrard performance will be playing on their minds. Everton will be up for the fight though and David Moyes’ reign at Everton has rightly caused him to be heralded as one of the best managers in the league but his 10 years at the club is yet to produce a trophy and they will see the FA Cup as winnable. The link up of Royston Drenthe and Nikica Jelavic will be the one Liverpool will need to quash if they do not want to be beaten, with the Croatian forward being the main rival to Papiss Cisse for title of in-form striker of the Prem since his arrival at Everton.
All in all Everton will probably go into the game with more confidence and probably more belief than Liverpool (due to their bad form and the goal keeper situation) but the occasion might get to Moyes’ men and the massive influence of Steven Gerrard might prove the difference once again. It will be a tight, tense game, but with the attacking talent on show has the potential to open up to an end to end affair towards the end of the game. A lot also depends on the Liverpool back four, they really need to help Brad Jones on Saturday, his lack of match practice may punish Liverpool, but if their back four is on form then damage control will be limited, if their not, the likes of Jelavic, Drenthe and Baines will capitalise and could scrape it for Everton
Prediction: Liverpool 3-2 Everton (AET)
Chelsea – Tottenham
In a repeat of the first all London FA Cup final back in the ’60s Chelsea and Tottenham make the short trip to Wembley on Sunday. In another game that has a lot of factors to consider and also much like the Mersey derby it really could go either way. First to Spurs, who have come into an end of season dip, at one point Spurs looked to have guaranteed themselves Champions League football next year, without the hassle of the qualifying rounds, there were even some optimistic fans who were mapping out how Spurs could complete the title shocks of all title shocks. Since Fabio Capello was sacked as England manager and the press, the footballing community and the punters were all calling for Harry Redknapp to get the England job Spurs have somewhat hit a brick wall. The ever inconsistent Adebeyor is on one of his non-scoring streaks, Van Der Vaart’s fitness continues to deteriorate and they’ve had a few injury problems to cope with. Since their dip in form Spurs have been leap frogged by fierce rivals Arsenal who just can’t stop winning recently, this has led to Harry Redknapp admitting that they are now battling for that fourth spot, with Newcastle and Chelsea breathing down their necks it will be an interesting final five games for those involved. It is not all doom and gloom for Spurs though, on their day the combination of Bale, Parker and Modric can be enough to beat any team in the Prem, and in fact this poor form may just motivate them to seek spoils away form the league and winning the FA Cup would indeed turn their recent fortunes right around, especially as their last London derby has been cited as one of the reasons for the dip in form as the 5-2 loss at the hands of Arsenal seemed to start their bad run, they will want to hit back at this and win an even more important derby at the weekend.
Chelsea are a difficult team to predict, and I think that derives from the fact it depends what Chelsea team is fielded. Villa-Boas tried to give youngsters a try, ushering in a transition from new to old, this meant leaving out the heart of the Chelsea team, Lampard. Since his appointment as caretaker Di Matteo has seen a small turn around in fortune, losing only one of their last six in the league and turning around a 3-1 deficit against Napoli in dramatic fashion and then brushing off Benfica to cruise to the Semi-Finals of the Champions League. This is because Di Matteo seems to appreciate that whilst building for the future is important there are certain players that pick themselves in some teams, and Frank Lampard is one of these players. The only fact that counters the positives for Chelsea is the fact they welcome Champions League holders Barcelona to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, and the question that must be asked, will Di Matteo rest certain players to win the bigger competition against harder opposition, or will he go for domestic success against, in context, easier opponents.
This game really can go either way, but if the Tottenham team that came out and surprised everyone at the start of the season turns up at Wembley they should edge it against a Chelsea team that would probably prefer to focus on reaching the Champions League final, however if Spurs put in any less than 100% then the result will probably go Chelsea’s way
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea
Love to know what you all think of the weekend ahead, and if you think I’ve called it all wrong, then comment below.