It will be a case of FA Cup quarter-final deja vu at Goodison Park on Easter Monday when Sunderland travel to their cup conquerors Everton in the Premier League, less than a fortnight after the Blues comfortably won a replay 2-0 to book their passage to Wembley.
The FA Cup semi-final that both sides were so desperate to reach takes place on Saturday when the Toffees do battle with arch rivals Liverpool in an all Merseyside tie that should be a fascinating affair, which, if you’re anything like me, will have you questioning exactly how bothered Everton are going to be about what is essentially a meaningless, end of season match between two mid table sides when the big prize awaits at the weekend.
For me, the answer is not at all. Manager David Moyes essentially threw the derby match at Anfield with his selection, resting six first teamers for the lame 3-0 defeat, with more than one eye on the tie against Sunderland five days later.
Now that the really big one is looming large, do you think he is now going to change his policy of prioritising the FA Cup?
There is genuine belief in the Everton camp that Liverpool are there for the taking (which they obviously are) and they would happily sacrifice a match against Sunderland to make that happen.
I don’t think that he will for one second. Sure, Moyes will make all the right noises about taking each game as it comes and all the other banalities managers trot out when it suits, but this match is nothing more than an inconvenience Moyes could do without and I have a feeling that may transmit itself to the players who will certainly be thinking about Saturday.
It is for this reason that I think the 9/10 that bwin are offering on a home win is best left alone, and I’d rather be on the 13/4 that Sunderland gain a little revenge for the cup defeat with a win than the 9/4 on the draw.
The first thing to say is that these sides are evenly matched. Sunderland’s players may have frozen on the big occasion in the replay, but four of the previous six meetings between the two had been draws (including two contests this season) so the meek way in which the Black Cats surrendered at the Stadium of Light is not indicative of a wider gulf in class.
Although it would be scant consolation, Martin O’Neill would love to get one over Moyes for the cup defeat, and this could give Sunderland the edge they need to take all three points.
The Black Cats have reacted very well since the cup loss that all but ended their season, with draws at Manchester City and at home to Tottenham a fine response to the crushing disappointment of their performance against the Blues two weeks ago.
O’Neill looks determined to make up for that no-show with maximum effort between now and the end of the season, and I think his players will have the edge against a team with bigger and better things on their mind.
Even if Moyes doesn’t make changes, are the players who know they are going to play on Saturday really going to go in full pelt for 50/50 challenges, chase lost causes and so on?
I think not. There is genuine belief in the Everton camp that Liverpool are there for the taking (which they obviously are) and they would happily sacrifice a match against Sunderland to make that happen. I wouldn’t go mad on your stake, but the 13/4 that Sunderland exact small revenge is worth a play.
Recommended bet: Sunderland to win @ 13/4
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