Merseyside giants Everton and Liverpool come head to head tomorrow lunchtime in the FA Cup semi-final.
The two teams meet at Wembley for the first time since the 1989 FA Cup final, which was played in the aftermath of the sad events at Hillsborough.
This game could be a season defining moment for both teams. Everton have struggled for silverware in recent years and their last trophy came in 1995.
In David Moyes tenth year in charge though they have a fantastic chance of reaching the FA Cup final.
The Toffee’s are also ahead of their arch-rivals in the Premier League table. However a FA Cup victory would be far sweeter than just finishing above the Reds in the league.
For Liverpool this is a must win game. Their league performances this season have been poor and they haven’t lived up to expectations. Winning the Carling Cup gave the Reds supporters something to shout about but apart from that the season has been a major disappointment.
Questions are now being asked about boss Kenny Dalglish’s ability to manage the team and a defeat at Wembley to their arch-rivals would be a disaster for the Scot. They simply have to beat David Moyes side.
Everton are definitely the form side heading in this clash. The Toffee’s have lost just two out of the last 17 games in all competitions, one of those defeats coming at Anfield and the other coming at Goodison against in-form Arsenal.
Liverpool’s form has picked up in recent weeks, after the team suffered a woeful run which saw them drop below Everton in the table. The Reds managed a last-gasp 3-2 victory at Blackburn in their last outing courtesy of a rare Andy Carroll goal and that should send them into this clash in a better frame of mind.
However as the old saying goes form really does go out the window when it comes to derby matches and that’s why they are so unpredictable.
Both teams will go into the game without key players. Everton will be without midfielder playmaker Steven Pienaar, who is cup-tied. The little South African has been sensational since his return to Goodison on-loan from Spurs.
Liverpool are in the midst of a goalkeeping crisis. They will be without first choice keeper Pepe Reina and also understudy Alexander Doni, who are both suspended after receiving red cards in previous games.
That means that former-Middlesbrough Brad Jones will be handed his first start in a Liverpool shirt since December 2010. These absentees could be key to how the game goes.
The key men in this fixture are a mixture of old and new. Liverpool’s key man will as always be captain and midfield general Steven Gerrard. The England-international scored a hat-trick at Anfield against the Toffees earlier in the season and always seems to perform against the blue side of Merseyside.
Gerrard is the player Liverpool look for when they need inspiration and he very rarely disappoints. However he hasn’t had a stellar season, after suffering an injury early on. Liverpool fans will still be expecting the midfielder to lead the team to victory.
The key man for Everton has to be Croatian hitman Nikica Jelavic. The 26 year-old has hit the ground running since joining the Blues from Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers in the January transfer window.
He is considered to be the missing piece in David Moyes jigsaw and he has already played a crucial part in getting Everton this far, scoring one of the goals in the 2-0 win at Sunderland to secure a trip to Wembley.
Ironically he was linked with a move to Liverpool before he moved across the park. It seems that everybody involved, apart from possibly Liverpool are glad he didn’t make the switch to Anfield as he seems extremely happy at Everton.
This game is such a hard one to predict. If the Liverpool that has done so well in cups turns up then they have an excellent chance of winning. However if the Liverpool who have been so poor in the league turn up then they will get turned over.
Everton are full of confidence after an excellent run in the Premier League and have the momentum. They also have experienced players who are determined to win a trophy. David Moyes side have to play the game, not the occasion though.
Liverpool are currently favourites with most bookmakers but it’s bound to be a close encounter of the Mersey kind, tackles flying in, lots of high tension and hopefully a good game of football between two very decent teams.
It will be a great day for Merseyside, as it’s two biggest clubs go head to head in one of the biggest games in decades. I just hope that the game lives up to the hype surrounding it, because it promises to be an enthralling and drama filled occasion.
Who will win the Merseyside FA Cup semi-final?
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