Aston Villa v Liverpool Preview, FA Cup Semi Final – 19th April 2015
The second FA Cup semi final see fans of Aston Villa and Liverpool descend on North West London for their showdown at Wembley
The two teams are in very different places in the Premier League table. Liverpool still have an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League whereas Aston Villa are scrapping for their survival. Funnily enough, despite their varying fortunes, both teams go into each of their remaining league games knowing that failure to achieve maximum points is not good enough.
The Aston Villa board finally ran out of patience with Paul Lambert at the end of January. Lambert was trying to build something at Villa by using a number of youth players but ultimately the club’s incredibly poor goals return was too much for him to survive. The Scotsman wasn’t the most vocal or outgoing manager in the Premier League so Randy Lerner decided to go with the more gregarious figure of Sherwood to try and light some fires under the bellies of the underperforming squad. The former Tottenham manager’s first input came at half time of Villa’s FA Cup tie against West Brom. The game was as flat as anything the Villa Park faithful had seen that season so Sherwood left his seat in the corporate area to have a good old fashioned shout at his new charges. It worked, they progressed and Sherwood began to win the trust of Villa’s players and, crucially, their fans.
Brendan Rodgers looked as though he would be leaving his job before Lambert finally got the axe. Liverpool were so good last season that it was always going to be a tough ask for the Northern Irishman to replicate their form. Especially with the sale of Luis Suarez and the injury problems hampering Daniel Sturridge’s season. However, Rodgers stuck with what he believed in, made some alterations to the team’s system and they went on an incredible run. Not only were Liverpool winning games both home and away but they looked as good as they had done last season. This season’s FA Cup represents a huge opportunity for Rodgers. Liverpool’s history in the competition is one that almost every other English club would love to have and at some point, Rodgers is going to have to bring some silverware back to Merseyside.
Liverpool have a good opportunity against a team well below them in the league table. They also owe Villa a certain amount of revenge thanks to the early season 1-0 win that the Villains scored at Anfield. Liverpool did win the league game at Villa Park in January but would love to take full revenge by ending Villa’s cup dreams. Sherwood’s team have scored more goals per game than Lambert’s but they have yet to look completely convincing. Two wins early on in his time in charge have been followed by a three game winless streak. Sherwood knows how important the FA Cup is to all English football fans but surely he cannot want to emulate Roberto Martinez’s finale at Wigan by winning the FA Cup but being relegated.