Liverpool vs. Everton: 8 Reasons the Blues Can Win FA Cup Semifinal
Even though there are still two Premier League games between now and the Merseyside Derby FA Cup Semifinal, all eyes on Merseyside are firmly fixed on Wembley.
With Everton playing their best football of the season and Liverpool their worst, the Blue half of Merseyside may start to feel confident about the Wembley tie, but the thought of the 3-0 defeat at Anfield weeks ago is still fresh in the memory.
Since that game, however, Everton have gone above Liverpool in the Premier League and Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish may be running out of time to save his job at Anfield.
Liverpool have been a fantastic cup side this season and Everton cannot and will not underestimate them at Wembley.
Here are eight reasons that Everton can return from Wembley victorious on the 14 April.
Pepe Reina's Suspension
Following the Liverpool goalkeeper's mini-headbutt on Newcastle United defender James Perch, Pepe Reina looks set to miss the FA Cup Semifinal due to a three-match ban.
Liverpool can appeal the decision, but the Liverpool Echo is reporting that an appeal will not be lodged.
Liverpool's reserve goalkeeper Doni has played less time in goal in the Premier League than Liverpool defender Jose Enrique, so the loss of Pepe Reina would be a big blow to Liverpool.
The whole of Merseyside will wait with bated breathe to see if Liverpool will appeal, and if their appeal is successful.
The Rise of Nikica Jelavic
It looks as though Everton may finally have found the goal scorer they have so desperately needed over recent seasons in the form of Nikica Jelavic.
He may have only scored three goals in his Everton career, but his recent string of fine performances seems to suggest that Everton's January acquisition will become a solid Premier League striker.
Jelavic's link-up play with Everton's midfield, most notably Tim Cahill, gives Everton a much stronger attacking presence as Liverpool will have to deal with Everton's attack far more than in the other two Derbies this season.
The Croatian international can score and create chances, and with Liverpool possibly starting an inexperienced goalkeeper, Everton's new striker could build on his already burgeoning reputation.
The Resurgence of Tim Cahill
The rise of Nikica Jelavic has really gone hand in hand in with the resurgence of Tim Cahill.
Having suffered his year-long goal drought and in that time never really looking like the Cahill Everton fans have grown accustomed to, the Australian international looks like he is back.
His instinctive goal in the first leg of the last round against Sunderland capped a fine performance, as Cahill found those in-the-box positions he is famous for.
His aerial ability has never been questioned and Jelavic looks like he is the perfect foil for the more advanced role Tim Cahill likes to occupy.
If he is given any sort of space in the area, Cahill will be dangerous and with the way Liverpool have defended recently, a resurgent Tim Cahill could make the Reds pay.
John Heitinga's Form
John Heitinga is in the form of his life at the moment for Everton.
The centre-back has formed a wonderful partnership with Sylvain Distin in the absence of Phil Jagielka and with the England international now returning from injury, Everton's back line looks solid.
Heitinga has been a commanding presence at the back for the majority of the season and will need to be at his best again against Liverpool at Wembley.
Steven Gerrard's hat trick against the Blues showed how dangerous Liverpool can be going forward, but Heitinga was resting for that game.
With the Dutchman back in the lineup, it could be a different story at Wembley.
Leighton Baines and the Left Side
The Everton left side versus the Liverpool right will be a decisive battle in the FA Cup Semifinal. The presence of Leighton Baines could tip the balance in Everton's favour.
Probably the best left-back in the Premier League, Baines is as good going forward as he is defending. His set pieces speak for themselves.
He is a fantastic crosser of the ball and is Everton's joint top scorer this season, with five goals in all competitions.
Everton's wingers have been dropping like flies recently and Steven Pienaar, Everton's best left-midfield option, will be cup tied for this game, but Baines will be deadly no matter who plays in front of him.
With Glen Johnson struggling with injury, it will be interesting to see how Liverpool cope with the left-side threat of Baines and company.
Everton are one of the top-form sides in the Premier League at the moment, having lost just two of the last 14 games.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have been the definition of a cup side, with just one Premier League win—against Everton, no less—in their last six games.
In 2012, Liverpool have picked up eight league points, the club's worst 12-game haul since 1954.
Everton lie fifth in the Premier League form table with Liverpool languishing in 19th, only Wolves keeping them off the bottom spot.
The Reds are a different side in cup competition this season as a Carling Cup win and this semifinal show, but surely the Liverpool cup bubble must burst soon.
Lest we forget the 3-0 Liverpool win against Everton at Anfield, but Everton fielded a weaker side in that game and there is no chance of a repeat performance at Wembley.
Everton's victory away at Swansea two weeks ago was down to a great managerial performance from David Moyes.
Swansea have been great at home in the Premier League this season and their style of football at the Liberty Stadium has been a joy to watch.
Thanks to Moyes' tactics, exerting as much pressure on Swansea's players and giving them no time on the ball, Everton strolled to a 2-0 victory.
Over at Anfield, meanwhile, is the King's reign nearly over?
Patience seems to be running very thin with Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, as Liverpool fans haven't been fooled by a Carling Cup win that has helped paste over the cracks of some abysmal Premier League performances.
It took 75 minutes for Dalglish to make a change in the 2-0 loss at Newcastle United this weekend. The Liverpool boss is starting to look tactically inept.
It will be interesting to see if Dalglish sticks with the 4-3-3 that doesn't seem to be working or whether he makes a tactical change. Either way, Dalglish needs to start winning to keep the dogs at bay.
Luck of the Irish
10 appearances into his Everton career and midfielder Darron Gibson has yet to taste defeat.
To call it luck is unfair, as Gibson has played brilliantly since his January move from Manchester United, but the fact remains: If Gibson plays, Everton don't lose.
Many Evertonians (myself included) were a little skeptical of the Gibson signing in January, as he'd played well for United but had always struggled with injuries. He is proving those doubters wrong.
Gibson has slotted in well in Everton's midfield. His partnership with Marouane Fellaini is paying dividends, as Gibson's presence allows Fellaini more freedom to push forward.
Manager David Moyes still thinks Gibson hasn't reached his full potential, but as long as he keeps playing and Everton keep winning, Evertonians will stay happy.
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