Aston Villa vs Liverpool – FA Cup Semi-Final 2015

Despite a turbulent season Villa are heading to Wembley, and with an upturn in form clearly evident Villa fans will be full of confidence ahead of Sunday’s big clash. Villa are not safe from relegation yet but the win at Spurs has given us some breathing space, and in the words of Sherwood, the team can now “enjoy” the Wembley match. Can Sherwood continue his impressive Villa revolution by booking an appearance in the final?

Benteke has scored four goals in five league appearances against Liverpool

Sherwood on Liverpool and team selections

“Agbonlahor and Benteke work together. Gabby has great pace and we’re looking to utilise that if he’s fit. The Liverpool backline will certainly take a couple of steps back if he’s on the pitch.

“Shay Given will play. He’s done nothing wrong. He’s a big reason why we’re in this semi-final, with the saves he made against Leicester.

 

“I hope the fans are looking forward to the game. We’ve picked up some good results recently. It’s definitely a game we can win.

“We’ll do everything we possibly can to make sure we’re back there in May. I don’t want my players to have any regrets after the game.”

Rodgers on Villa

“We’ve been caught on the counter-attack a number of times at home [against Villa]. But away from home it’s always been different, we’ve controlled the game well.

“It’s a different game, a different arena.”

Three Past Encounters in the FA Cup

31st March 1996 Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 0 (Semi-Final)

Two late goals from Fowler and McAteer ended Villa’s hopes of reaching the final 

8th March 1992 Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 0 (Quarter-Final)

Villa crashed out of the FA Cup thanks to a single goal from Michael Thomas

31st January 1988 Villa 0 Liverpool 2 (Fourth-Round)

A crowd of over 45,000 at Villa Park saw Villa then in the old Division 2 concede two goals at the hands of John Barnes and Peter Beardsley

Road to Wembley

Villa: Blackpool 1-0 (H), Bournemouth 2-1 (H), Leicester 2-1 (H), West Brom 2-0 (H)

Liverpool: AFC Wimbledon 2-1 (A), Bolton Wanderers 2-1 (A – Replay), Crystal Palace 2-1 (A), Blackburn Rovers 1-0 (A – Replay)

Form

Villa– Last five league matches: W 2, D 1, L 2

Liverpool – Last five league matches: W 3, L 2

One to Watch

Raheem Sterling – Very much in the media spotlight recently but scored against Newcastle on Monday. Will be a cause for concern for Villa’s makeshift defence!

 

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

When Villa face Liverpool it’s always difficult to predict. We seem to be unbeatable when we travel to Anfield but always struggle against them at Villa Park. The backdrop of Wembley stadium throws another variable into the mix but it might actually suit Rodger’s men. While we won all of our FA cup matches at home, all of Liverpool’s victories were away, two of which were replays.

Whether you see it as taking one for the team or a moment of madness, Sanchez’s red card means he won’t feature on Sunday. With our midfield absentees ‘The Rock’ would have been a useful addition to the squad even if he does sometimes take too long to pick a pass.

Gabby Agbonlahor’s message on instagram of a sad face suggests he’s lost his fight to be fit for Sunday, but the good news is at least Sinclair being announced fit, will leave us with pace up top to create space for Benteke. To miss both Gabby and Sinclair would have been a big blow.

Despite the return of Sinclair and also Westwood, our injury list still looks pretty bad. While Liverpool have a few problems of their own in that department they will be looking at our hastily-assembled back line as a boost to their chances of progressing to the final.

Adding to these difficult circumstances and despite Anfield success in the past, our general record against Liverpool isn’t great – we’ve only won three of the last 11 matches against them. In the FA Cup, we’ve lost our last six meetings with them, with Liverpool keeping a clean sheet each time…

“It’s definitely a game we can win” – Sherwood

What We Pray the Football Gods Will Provide

In recent seasons Villa fans have had to endure several footballing cliches in regards to relegation battles, including the labelling of league games as ‘cup finals’.

Well, now we’re close to a PROPER cup final rather than a falsely-labelled home match against Hull, and despite being the underdog, form suggests the match will be a close affair.

Sherwood has shown that there is quality in Villa’s ranks, and last weekend’s victory against his former employers was the perfect preparation against a side in a similar league position to Liverpool.

At a ground where we don’t tend to win Villa might have been forgiven for parking the bus but the attacking approach at White Hart Lane was refreshing and ultimately saw us take all three points.

Villa are at their best when they’re attacking and it will be necessary for a similar approach at Wembley this weekend – especially considering the displays Benteke has put in against Liverpool in the past!

It will also be good to see Shay Given in goal. He’s been excellent so far on the cup run – hopefully this continues.

Liverpool have won the last six FA Cup meetings against Villa without conceding

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

With all the media focus being on the fact that the final coincides with Gerrard’s birthday, it seems a foregone conclusion that Liverpool will lift the trophy.

With two Premier League teams potentially standing in their way however, talk of winning the competition is always risky, and it could be this expectation that causes an unwelcome psychological effect on Liverpool’s players.

Both teams have had kind draws in the run up to the semi-final but Liverpool have at times struggled, needing replays against both Bolton and Blackburn.

Villa meanwhile have shown that relegation worries have not played on their mind while participating in the cup, and to win against a West Brom side out to avenge defeat a few days earlier was a particularly impressive achievement.

Sherwood has been vocal on the tough times suffered by Villa fans in recent seasons and vows that if we do stay up we’ll never be threatened by relegation again. Bold words perhaps, but the manager’s faith in the side is encouraging, and the players have already responded well to his management – there’s no reason to doubt he can motivate even a depleted Villa squad to Wembley glory!

It’s been 118 years since Villa beat Liverpool in the FA Cup. As an added incentive, when we beat them in 1897, we went on to win the cup…

With Benteke back to his best (he’s scored four in his last five league appearances against Liverpool) there’s no reason we can’t book a trip to Wembley in May.

UTV

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