The Conservative party are in Government, unemployment is rising, the unions are on strike and Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool are about to meet Everton in the FA Cup at Wembley – you could be forgiven for thinking we’d all been transported back to the 1980s.
The city’s two big guns would no doubt wish for that as well (on the football pitch, anyway, let’s not get too political), for that was the decade that Merseyside truly ruled English football, with both clubs boasting great sides that spent years contesting top prizes both at home and abroad.
How times have changed. Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final will have many reminiscing about the two great clashes in the Eighties when Dalglish’s Liverpool twice beat Everton in the FA Cup final (’86 and ’89), yet those glory days seem a distant memory and for both clubs this match is, in many ways, a mission to make rather than break a season.
Liverpool already have silverware on the table thanks to their Carling Cup success over Cardiff in February, but their season has continually lurched from one disaster to the next.
The Luis Suarez affair, poor league form and Dalglish’s public relations mishaps have all damaged the club to varying degrees and even this week’s departure of director of football Damian Comolli, the man who deemed it fit to pay £20million for Stewart Downing, seemed all rather chaotic and unnecessary days before a huge semi-final.
With the Anfield men languishing in eighth place (below Everton) in the Premier League table, the FA Cup has taken on huge significance in order to salvage a season that is in danger of being remembered for all the wrong reasons.
In the latter stages of a game like this, the fear of losing always overtakes the desire to take a chance on winning and with neither side prolific in front of goal – they have scored only 78 league goals between them – the 21/10 on the draw is the shout.
Similarly, though, David Moyes will feel this has become an era-defining match. It is obvious to everyone that Moyes has done a fantastic job with Everton on limited resources, but with the trophy cabinet bare during his ten-year stewardship, the former Preston boss has been on record that he would deem his tenure at Goodison Park a failure were that not to change.
So with Merseyside descending on London (on Grand National day, too) who is set to earn the bragging rights?
Liverpool are the shortest price with bwin at 29/20 to win in 90 minutes, with Everton a 39/20 chance and the draw at 21/10 – though as I’ve written before, quite what Liverpool have done to be favourites I am not entirely sure.
They say that the form book goes out of the window in derby matches, so Liverpool had better hope someone has got a long, accurate throw because the way the two teams are playing means they have to buck up their ideas.
Yes, there were signs of recovery against Aston Villa that were carried on into Tuesday’s frankly ludicrous win over Blackburn Rovers, but that ultimately deserved 3-2 victory was only the Reds’ second in ten Premier League games.
The other of those was, ironically, against an Everton side that rested half a team in order to prioritise the FA Cup.
Yet despite that policy, Moyes has overseen the Toffees’ annual post-winter resurgence – that 3-0 defeat at Anfield was one of only two in Everton’s last 17 in all competitions – and confidence is high that Moyes can enjoy his finest hour as Everton boss.
He may well do, but I think that this is a result that is going to be decided after 90 minutes. Yes, Everton are in better form but this is going to be a tight, tense affair and there are enough reasons to oppose the Everton bandwagon.
Moyes’ record against Liverpool is one. It is very poor indeed, as lacklustre performances and ill discipline have blighted his attempts to get one over on his city rivals.
Just three wins in 22 derbies – one of which came in extra-time in the 2009 FA Cup fourth round – is not the sort of record that would have you all over 37/20 on a set-piece occasion.
The type of occasion, it must be remembered, that Liverpool have excelled at over recent years: even this season, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have all been beaten in cup competitions, so this is not a match that will faze the majority of Liverpool’s team.
Brad Jones in goal is an obvious weakness, but for the first time since the Carling Cup final Liverpool will have their first-choice back four in front of him with the timely return to fitness of Glenn Johnson and, vitally, Daniel Agger, making them defensively solid against a side who don’t score many away from Goodison Park (just 17 in 16 league games).
But by the same token, you won’t find me tipping Liverpool at that price given the run they’ve been on so for me, it could be a long afternoon at Wembley.
In the latter stages of a game like this, the fear of losing always overtakes the desire to take a chance on winning and with neither side prolific in front of goal – they have scored only 78 league goals between them – the 21/10 on the draw in a match that is bound to be tight is the shout.
And if you’re determined to bet on one team to advance, expect it to be after extra-time, so get on prices of 4/5 for Liverpool or 21/20 for Everton to reach the final by any means necessary.
Recommended bet: Liverpool and Everton to draw @ 21/10
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