Five Things That Could Define Semis

Ben Jefferson takes a look at some of the factors that could prove decisive as Liverpool take on Everton and Chelsea meet Tottenham in pursuit of FA Cup glory...

Last Updated: 13/04/12 at 09:20

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A Lack Of Goals

All four teams involved in this weekend's semi-finals have been accused of not scoring enough at various times this season. Everton, in particular, have scored the fewest goals of any team in the top half of the Premier League but have departed from their goal-shy ways in recent weeks, most notably putting four past Sunderland last weekend.

With only two goals more than Everton, Liverpool have also lacked a cutting edge in the league this season but have scored goals almost at will in the FA Cup against Oldham and Brighton. Still, Liverpool have been held scoreless on ten occasions this season, and although that has only occurred once in their last seven games, it must remain a concern for Kenny Dalglish.

Whilst goals have generally been less of a problem for Chelsea and Tottenham, that didn't stop the teams playing out a tedious 0-0 draw only three weeks ago at Stamford Bridge.

With no guarantees of a high-scoring affair, one goal could be enough to win either game. Whichever teams show the greater attacking intent in pursuit of that goal seems most likely to be back at Wembley in May.

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You can show all the attacking intent you like but without someone to put the ball in the net, it all counts for nought.

Indeed, much of Liverpool's failure to score this season has been blamed on Luis Suarez's wastefulness and Andy Carroll's general ineffectiveness.

Of the four semi-finalists only Spurs have avoided spunking millions of pounds in pursuit of the 20-goal-a-season striker that could give them an edge, and then only by virtue of Manchester City's generosity in loaning them Emmanuel Adebayor.

Despite occasional travails in the league, Fernando Torres, Andy Carroll, Adebayor and Everton's own big-money (by their standards) signing, Nikica Jelavic, have all scored goals - albeit more often than not against lower-league opposition - in the FA Cup this season.

If any of the above-mentioned strikers can assert themselves at Wembley, as they are undoubtedly capable of doing on their day, it will - as well as starting to justify their clubs' investment - more than likely mean their team progresses to the final.

Goalkeepers

Liverpool's appeal of Alexander Doni's red card against Blackburn on Tuesday, which, if successful, would have freed him to play against Everton was rejected by the FA. But the mere fact that they appealed at all tends to suggest that perhaps they don't have the utmost confidence in Brad Jones. In fairness, Jones himself was very lucky not be sent off after flapping at a ball that was charged down when it really should have been comfortably cleared. If Jones is between the sticks on Saturday, could a similar lapse prove decisive?

The three other semi-finalists all have highly experienced keepers, although Petr Cech has showed signs of fallibility at times this season and Brad Friedel hasn't always been helped by the defenders in front of him. Nevertheless, it is difficult to see an error from Cech, Friedel or Tim Howard making the difference. Unfortunately, the same can't be said with anywhere near the same level of certainty of Jones for Liverpool.

Distractions

Much has been made of the FA's refusal to entertain Chelsea's request to move their fixture against Spurs to Friday night as they prepare to face Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday. To be fair though, it seems unlikely that Roberto Di Matteo will be able to field a full-strength team in both matches. If, as many people expect, he chooses to rest some players on Sunday it could be all the invitation Tottenham - themselves potentially distracted by their stuttering attempts to qualify for next season's Champions League - need to take advantage.

Liverpool may not have a Champions League semi-final to worry about but, with the departure of Damien Comolli, the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and a goalkeeping crisis to contend with there is enough going on at the club that the players could, ever so slightly, take their eye off the ball. If they do, the stability of David Moyes' no-fuss regime may give Everton the edge.

Managerial Auditions

All four managers have something to prove heading into the weekend. Harry Redknapp needs to show that he does possess the tactical sophistication, called into question after recent results, required to be the next England manager. David Moyes, it could well be said, is out to prove that he should be the man to replace Redknapp at Spurs. And the success of Roberto Di Matteo's audition to take on the Chelsea manager's job will be determined, at least in part, by how Chelsea continue to progress in both the FA Cup and the Champion's League under his leadership.

For Liverpool's part, the revelation that Kenny Dalglish was responsible for choosing all the players bought by Liverpool in the summer heaps pressure on the Scot to make the players at his disposal perform to their potential as they seek to add the FA Cup to their League Cup triumph.

It all makes for two intriguing battles and the managers' player selections, tactics, and motivational skills will all be tested. The outcomes will go some way to determining where each of the managers involved will be plying their trade next season.

Ben Jefferson

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