It would be hard to wish for a bigger and better duo of FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley this year with the prospect of Everton meeting Liverpool in a Merseyside derby, and Chelsea meeting Tottenham, in a London derby.
Here’s the preview of the two mouthwatering matches:
Liverpool vs Everton
Saturday, April 14, 7:30am ET/12:30pm BST
It will be an early kick-off in the 218th Merseyside derby this weekend due to other Premier League games being played that day.
The last time these two teams met, in March, it was an ugly result for Everton fans who saw Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard score a hat trick. Despite that result, Liverpool hasn’t had a good run lately and it has been one of their worst forms in the top division for decades. While Liverpool is the stronger of the two teams — when looking at the team sheet, the Reds will have the advantage of knowing what it takes to be victorious at Wembley after winning the Carling Cup a few months ago after defeating Cardiff City on penalties. Everton will be a much tougher opposition than the Welsh club. Still, Liverpool will desperately want to win the FA Cup, giving them two trophies which will go a long way to erasing the memory of their poor form in the Premier League.
In recent Liverpool matches, Jonjo Shelvey has seen more playing time, forcing Dalglish to leave out midfielder Jay Spearing who, by looking at the statistics, has been one of their best midfielders this season. Furthermore, it was Spearing’s hard work in the last derby that gave Gerrard more attacking possibilities and therefore helped him score his hat trick. One of the best pieces of news for Liverpool fans is that their mighty Dane, Daniel Agger, is back from injury. His return will be a big bonus in defense, and will help Skrtel who hasn’t been playing his best this season for Liverpool. The biggest area of weakness for Liverpool this weekend will be the absence of goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Doni, who both are out with red cards. That leaves young Brad Jones as their only remaining goalkeeper who has played first team football for Liverpool this season. Liverpool, however, has called up goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, who was on a season-long loan with Hull City.
Everton has been playing well lately despite the bad result against Liverpool in their last derby. David Moyes has been with his Everton team for a century now and is looking to finally get a trophy after his many years at the club. In the last ten years, it hasn’t been easy staring up your closest rivals Liverpool in the league table. However, this season The Toffees are above Liverpool with a one point margin. The difference has been the good form from striker Nikica Jelavic who, since his arrival from Glasgow Rangers this January, has been scoring important goals. Furthermore, players like Steven Pienaar and Tim Cahill have been playing well in the attacking midfield role, while the midfield has been strong with giant Marouane Fellaini, experienced Leon Osman, RoystonDrenthe and Darron Gibson all playing well. Their main weakness has been their defense where Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Jonny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin haven’t been defending as well as they normally do recently. Having said that, earlier this week Everton had a comfortable 4-0 win against Sunderland, giving them great confidence for their FA Cup clash with their rivals.
So who will win? Well as it is a derby, Liverpool will be the favorites. Everton, on the other hand, might be underdogs but this could work to their advantage.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Everton
Tottenham vs Chelsea
Sunday, April 15, 1pm ET/6:00pm BST
The London derby might not be as fierce as the Merseyside one, but the football is just as good, maybe even better. The game starts late on a Sunday, something Chelsea is not pleased about as they have to play Barcelona midweek. However, Chelsea has more experience playing at the new Wembley Stadium. Plus, Chelsea has been starting to play better after the club’s worst ever start since Abramovich took over.
Tottenham, on the other hand, has been flying up and down on the form table. The North Londoners were on fire in the first half of the season, playing beautiful football with Gareth Bale playing his best football ever. However, these last few months, their form has gone down. The dive happened after Harry Redknapp got connected with the England manager job. And since then they went from top team to now fighting to hold on to the fourth spot. With a 2-1 loss to Norwich City and a 0-0 draw to Sunderland, Spurs has only won one game in their last six.
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe said that a rotation in the squad could turn the things around, something which sounds like a smart idea. Gareth Bale isn’t the player he was a month ago. He’s looking tired and out of form, while Aaron Lennon on the right is only just arriving back after a long injury. It looks like it all may come down to their central midfielders. Scott Parker is the only player in the team who can run and fight for his team 365 days of the year, helping in defence and supporting the attacking players. Players like Rafael Van der Vaart and Luka Modric must come out and show their class as they are the creative force for Tottenham.
So how will the game end? Well by looking at their past meetings, it looks like it all will end up a draw with the match going into extra time. The last time these two teams met at Wembley was the 2008 Carling Cup final and Spurs won 2-1. Tottenham might look like favorites for this game due to Chelsea thinking ahead to the Barcelona game midweek. Despite Tottenham being out of form, I see this game going into extra time with Tottenham coming out as winners and therefore meeting Liverpool in the final.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Chelsea (AET).