|FAN: Matt Ladson
WEBSITE: This Is Anfield
|FAN: Joe Strange
Former Editor, Digital Sports Group
Liverpool and Everton are set for a Merseyside derby packed full of significance when they meet in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.
On the anniversary weekend of the Hillsborough disaster, both sides have plenty at stake. For the Reds, manager Kenny Dalglish could ease the pressure that has built from his side's disastrous Premier League form by edging a step closer to adding another trophy to the League Cup that he has already won this season.
David Moyes, meanwhile, is in search of his first piece of silverware in his 10-year reign over the Toffees, as well as hoping to beat their fierce rivals for the first time in the current campaign.
Goal.com invited Matt Ladson, editor of This Is Anfield, and Joe Strange, a keen Evertonian and former editor of Digital Sports Group, to get involved in our Twitter Q&A ahead of the FA Cup semi-final weekend...
What team do you think is the strongest in the FA Cup?
Matt Ladson: "By form, Liverpool have clearly been the ‘strongest’ in the competition so far. Absolutely dominant at home and, of course, seeing off United."
Pepe Reina and Doni are both suspended for the semi-final with Brad Jones set to start. How does Matt Ladson see the situation?
ML: "I'm actually in the process of writing an article suggesting the starting goalkeeper isn't as straightforward as most are making out. There is a good chance, in my opinion, Peter Gulacsi could start the game. He is more highly thought-of at the club and was made sub keeper ahead of Jones when Dalglish came in last season. Perhaps that was due to personal circumstances in Jones' life at the time, but it may not be as straightforward as it appears. Tough decision for Dalglish. Having said that, I expect Jones to start and it will complete a tremendous personal story for him and his family."
Matt can hardly have been happy about the manner of Doni's dismissal against Blackburn, however... right?
ML: "These things happen. If we were playing the blame game it would have to be placed at Jon Flanagan for his short back-pass but it would be harsh to murder the lad, just as it would be harsh to blame Doni after he has been given no playing time all season. My grumble would be with Dalglish, who hasn't played Doni in the reserves or given him a start in one of the Cup games against one of the lower teams - of which there has been plenty of opportunity, thus creating the problem himself."
Joe Strange: "From an Everton perspective it’s been pretty funny! I rate Reina very highly so was glad to see him suspended. The game at Blackburn was a good laugh but to be honest I would’ve rather seen Doni in goal at Wembley. Brad Jones may not have played that well at Ewood Park but he has more experience of the English game and will be determined to prove himself tomorrow. I don’t think Moyes will target him specifically as he won’t want to change what has been a very successful gameplan of late."
How tough has it been seeing your club fail to compete consistently and do you foresee an extended period in which Manchester City and United go unchallenged at the top?
ML: "Whoever wins the league this year, it is the worst team to win the Premier League in its history. The level has dropped a huge amount in recent years. Looking at United's starting 11 and comparing it to their teams of 1998, 2003, et cetera, it's incredible how they are still looking like winning it. And yes, that makes it extremely disappointing that we haven't taken advantage of how poor those ahead of us have been."
Is it time for Kenny Dalglish to go? What of the general perception that he is, effectively, unsackable due to his ties with the club & would winning the FA Cup change a lot of people's minds?
ML: "The only people's mind that matters are FSG's - and after the events of this week they have given a subtle sign that they are prepared to make big decisions. They are ruthless. The truth is, no matter if we were to win the FA Cup, our league campaign has been well below what we expected. To finish so far off our aim for the season - fourth place - and below where we ended last season is disappointing in the least. I would not be surprised to see him go this summer."
How big a deal would it be if Everton succeed in knocking out their rivals?
JS: "Saturday’s game means everything to Evertonians. It’s the biggest game we’ve had in years and the fact that it’s against our biggest rivals makes it so much more important. Reaching the final would be a huge achievement, especially given our start to the season, but to knock Liverpool out at this stage would make it even sweeter. The atmosphere will be electric tomorrow – I’m just hoping we put in a performance to fit the occasion."
What are our panel's predictions for the weekend?
ML: "To be honest, I'm dreading it. Our game will either be dull and tepid with both scared of making mistakes, or absolutely the opposite with goals galore, a red card or two and someone grabbing it late on. The goalkeeper situation worries me and our team selection is anyone's guess!"
JS: "It really could go either way but I’ve got to be positive. Everton to win 1-0 after a very tight 90 minutes, Jelavic with the only goal. Our defence has been very good recently and Liverpool have struggled for goals. I’m nervous already..."