City braced for cup semi-final

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FA Cup at Wembley

© TheFA.com

As Liverpool and Everton prepare to do battle in their first Wembley clash in 23 years, it will be the Reds who will be hoping the old adage that form goes out the window on derby day rings true.

Since their 3-0 win over Everton at Anfield in mid-March, the Reds have won just two of their six games on a dire run which has included three defeats on the bounce in the Premier League.

Whilst boosted by a dramatic 3-2 late win at Blackburn on Tuesday night, Kenny Dalglish has the added headache of a goalkeeping crisis for the FA Cup semi-final after Alexander Doni was sent off at Ewood Park. Third choice Brad Jones is now set to start, with Doni and regular ‘keeper Pepe Reina both banned.

By contrast, Everton have been in flying form, losing just one of their last seven and they go into Saturday’s  semi-final off the back of 4-0 hammering of  Sunderland in the league.

Hotshot striker Nikica Jelavić is sure to provide a test  for Liverpool’s inexperienced keeper and recently leaky defence.

But for both sides the stakes could not be higher, and for the city it will be a massive weekend.

Thousands of fans will begin an exodus from the city on Friday evening and early Saturday, with Virgin Trains already advising those who haven’t booked on their services from the city to London to travel from Manchester or other alternative destinations.

For Liverpool, defeat would end any hope of a Cup double and leave questions over the future of Kenny Dalglish after a season which promised much but has seen the side slide alarmingly in the league since the turn of the year.

Everton have a chance to deliver a knockout blow to their biggest rivals and bring them a game away from winning their first trophy under David Moyes in the 10 years he has been at Goodison Park. The Blues are also on course to finish above Liverpool in the Premier League for the first time in seven years.

There’s little doubt that both sides are desperate for victory in the hope of setting up another Wembley date for the FA Cup Final on 5th May, against either Chelsea or Tottenham.

Both sides have enjoyed home comforts en-route to the semi-final. Everton have played at Goodison in all but one of their games – the quarter final replay at Sunderland – beating Tamworth, Fulham and Blackpool, and drawing with the Black Cats before a 2-0 away win in the sixth round.

Liverpool have not been away from Anfield once, after beating Oldham, Manchester United, Brighton, and Stoke, scoring 15 goals and impressing in a way that has not been much evident in the Premier League.

A minute’s silence on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster will be observed at Wembley, where Liverpool and Everton met in the 1989 FA Cup Final just one month after the tragedy

The 12.30pm kick-off will begin a bumper weekend of sporting action for Merseyside, with the Grand National at Aintree later in the day ensuring that all eyes will be on the city and its two football teams in capital this weekend.

About Hugh O'Connell, Senior Editor