Monday, March 30, 2015

Stevie glee! Gerrard lifts the FA Cup on his final game for Liverpool…

OK, OK, so we’re getting carried away with the story that headline writers would most like. But will it actually happen? Could Gerrard enjoy the dream curtain call on his Liverpool career on May 30, his 35th birthday, before heading across the pond to play for LA Galaxy?

Realistically, why not? Despite making a monumental mess by getting sent off seconds after coming on in Liverpool’s Premier League defeat to Manchester United, there is a genuine sense that the script has been written. Gerrard will be determined to get his hands on the FA Cup for what would be a third time (and Liverpool’s eighth). Liverpool might have lost out in the league clash, but they will be full of confidence and are a best bet to ease through their quarter final replay with Blackburn.

Likely to stand in Gerrard’s way, though, are Arsenal, who are also short odds to make it to the final. They, of course, are going for a double – lifting the FA Cup for two seasons on the bounce.
But is that final nailed on? Or could Aston Villa, Blackburn or Reading wreck Liverpool and Arsenal’s dream?

Arsenal v Reading
Arsenal come into this match in top form and that's not good news for their Championship opponents. At present they have won nine of their last ten matches in all competitions and five in a row on the road.

The last team to successfully defend the FA Cup were Chelsea who won the trophy in 2009 and 2010. It's looking good for the Gunners to achieve that feat this season and being drawn against Reading hasn't hurt their prospects one bit. Losing out to Monaco in the Champions League was a major disappointment for Arsenal but they seem certain to be back in the money-spinning competition next season and again the FA Cup represents their only chance of winning a trophy this time around.

Stopping Arsenal scoring is a massive task these days. Only Southampton have managed to do that in their last 33 games stretching back all the way to October. Even though their most expensive signings Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil haven't been firing on all cylinders recently, the opposite can be said for Olivier Giroud, with the Frenchman scoring goals for fun. It's hard to believe that Arsenal won't make the cup final, but this is the FA Cup remember. Who would have thought that Bradford would have dumped Chelsea out?
Reading have had a fair bit of luck in the draws this season. Arsenal are the first Premier League side they have faced. Having to beat Huddersfield, Cardiff, Derby and Bradford City to reach this stage isn't a bad route to face, but now they face an almighty task to reach the final.

Their league form isn't a patch on their cup form and they are only just above the relegation zone, though there seems little chance of them actually going down. That means they can concentrate on one of the biggest games ever played in their history. They may not have any superstars, but when there's a dream of playing in a FA Cup final on the line, who knows what could happen?

Aston Villa v Blackburn or Liverpool
Thanks to UEFA and international matches, the sixth round replay between Blackburn and Liverpool doesn't take place until April 8, a whole month after their 0-0 draw at Anfield.  Since that game Liverpool have seen their bid to reach the Champions League falter. A place in the Europa League looks certain, so they can perhaps concentrate on winning their first piece of silverware since they won the League Cup in 2012 and give Steven Gerrard a dream end to his Liverpool career (unless he gets suspended again!). First they have to get past Blackburn and the Championship side have already beaten Swansea and Stoke at Ewood Park. Rovers aren't the most consistent of teams but a cup quarter-final at home must surely spur them on, though we see Liverpool making it through to a semi against Aston Villa.

Villa have shown some improvement since Tim Sherwood succeeded Paul Lambert as manager, and have actually managed to start scoring. They still have a relegation battle on their hands, though, and could easily be back in the bottom three by the time the cup semi comes around at Wembley. Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor have been getting more service since Villa switched to 4-4-2, but in this day and age we all know that staying in the Premier League is more important than winning the FA Cup. Sorry Villa fans, but we back Liverpool and the Gerrard juggernaut to roll you over here.

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