Sunday 19th April – 15:00 – Wembley Stadium
We now know one of this season’s FA Cup finalists, so Aston Villa and Liverpool will now battle it out to be at Wembley again on May 30th. The Villains have won the competition seven times, but the most recent of those success came in 1957, whilst they have not reached the semi-finals since 2000, when they went on to lose to Chelsea in the final. This season’s cup run has seen them play all four previous games at home, beating Blackpool, Bournemouth, Leicester and West Brom. It’s been a bright light in a dismal season in which Tim Sherwood has replaced Paul Lambert as manager, and they aren’t safe from relegation yet, but a 1-0 win over Tottenham has put them six points clear of the drop zone. Liverpool’s league season hasn’t quite gone to plan either, but the Reds are still in with a shout of the top four following a 2-0 win over Newcastle which has put them within four points of Manchester City. They haven’t reached Wembley the easy way though, scraping a win at AFC Wimbledon, needing a replay to beat Bolton, just overcoming Crystal Palace before beating Blackburn in the quarter-finals through a replay. Winning the trophy would be a huge step though, with the lack of recent silverware at Anfield becoming worrying.
The Key Battle: Fabian Delph vs Steven Gerrard
Once a number one target of Liverpool’s, Fabian Delph signed a new four and a half year deal with Aston Villa in January.
Villains fans will have breathed a sigh of relief, because not only is the midfielder key to their chances of success in this semi-final, but can be the key man in their team for years to come.
Delph broke into the England squad earlier this season, but hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season that earned him that place. None the less, he should have a big part to play at Wembley.
As will Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, despite the fact that he is unlikely to start after returning from a suspension.
Brendan Rodgers should bring him on though, with many people believing this year is the veteran’s season to win the trophy for the first time since 2006, when he was the star man in the Cardiff final.
Gerrard is only behind Raheem Sterling in Liverpool’s goalscoring charts this season, whilst his last game for the Reds before heading out to the States could be the FA Cup final – on his birthday. Is it fate?
- Tim Sherwood has said it is “touch and go” whether Gabriel Agbonlahor will overcome a hamstring strain in time to play.
- The former Tottenham boss has confirmed Shay Given will start at Wembley.
- Ciaran Clark and the suspended Carlos Sanchez are definitely out but Scott Sinclair and Ashley Westwood are fit.
- Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard both return from suspension for the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa at Wembley.
- However, only the Slovakian centre-back is likely to regain his place in the starting line-up as Gerrard has played just 27 minutes of football since February 10 because of injury and a three-match ban.
- Striker Daniel Sturridge is a doubt with a hip problem but fellow forward Mario Balotelli trained this week after a three-match absence through illness and injury. Jordon Ibe is cup-tied.
Aston Villa wins = 55 / Liverpool wins = 89 / Draws = 40
Last Meeting: Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool (Saturday 17th January 2015)
Liverpool increased the pressure on Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert by beating his struggling side to secure a third away league win in succession. The threat of a pre-match protest by Villa fans did not materialise but the home side went behind when Fabio Borini prodded in a Jordan Henderson cross. Christian Benteke had a chance to level but his powerful strike was saved. Liverpool survived a number of other scares before Rickie Lambert arrowed in an 18-yard shot to secure victory.
Stat of the Match
Liverpool and Villa have met in a FA Cup semi-final on three previous occasions, with the Villans winning in 1897 and Liverpool progressing in 1914 and 1996. Villa went on to win the trophy, while Liverpool were beaten in the final on both occasions.
Where can I watch it?
BT Sport 1 will show the game live from Wembley on Sunday starting at 2pm, with kick-off an hour later. BBC One’s FA Cup Match of the Day then have the highlights for you at 11:20pm that evening.
My Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool (aet)
You only need to look at Aston Villa’s win over Tottenham last week to see how Tim Sherwood has transformed their style of play. If the Midlands outfit bring their A-Game, they will push Liverpool close, perhaps even taking it to extra time, with a Christian Benteke goal cancelling out Raheem Sterling’s opener. Going into the extra 30 minutes, I have to predict a Steven Gerrard stunner to send Liverpool in the final.