The cryptic headline sums up the previous meetings between Liverpool and Aston Villa in the FA Cup. The semifinal at Wembley today must be won by Liverpool to avoid having a bad-ish season.
Liverpool and Aston Villa has a habit of performing well in domestic cups. Both teams have won the FA Cup seven times, hence the 7-7 figure in the headline. But while Liverpool grabbed the trophy quite recently, in 2006, Aston Villa´s latest triumph came 58 years ago, in 1957.
Both clubs has also been successful in the League Cup with the Reds winning it a record eight times and Villa claiming five victories.
What about the figures 6-1 and 2-1 in the headline then? The first is the number of times the teams has met in the FA Cup and showing a massive advantage for Liverpool eliminating Villa six times. The teams has never faced each other in the final but on three occasions in the semis and that is what the 2-1 figure stands for. Villains won the first meeting in 1897 and Liverpool triumped in 1914 and 1996. This is in other words the fourth time they clash in the semifinal.
Liverpool is labelled favourite ahead of the match but even if we are ten places above Aston Villa in the Premier League table and has collected 25 points more it´s gonna be a tight contest. This type of game invariably is. A recent evidence came yesterday when PL top team Arsenal needed extra-time, and a goalkeeper blunder, to beat Championship side Reading. The match at Wembley this afternoon will probably also be decided by the odd goal, perhaps in extra-time or it could even go to a penalty shoot-out. Everyone expecting an easy Liverpool victory might think again.
The outcome, though, is depending a lot on how Liverpool perform. If we can play with a high tempo and pass the ball well then we should create enough to score. But at the same time we must be alert and resolute in defence and above all not let Villa forwards Gabriel Agbonlahor counter-attack and Christian Benteke outmuscle us. These two are Villa´s key players, if we keep them quiet then a major step towards victory is taken.
Our major figure is playmaker Philippe Coutinho. If he can hit top form and find openings, in a way just he can, then we are on the road to another Wembley appearance. Aston Villa will do everything to shut him down so other Liverpool players must work hard to make sure Coutinho gets on the ball as often as possible, and in dangerous positions.
Other important components is to win the ball early and our pressing game must be implemented from the off. Villa must be made to feel uncomfortable and under siege. Furthermore defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva must be on his ball-winning best, attacker Raheem Sterling alert and full of running, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet assured and as lightning quick as he has been for a few months now.
If Steven Gerrard starts, as the rumours say he will, he must keep his head and not be over-charged as he was when coming on against Manchester United and in the process getting sent-off. He is desperate for some final glory in his Liverpool career but to achieve it he need to be as calm as he almost always is. Mentally that is, physically he must give 100 percent and dictate the game. After resting for a few weks he should be up for it. Gerrard likes to play against Aston Villa, he has scored 13 goals against them in his career and that is more than against any other team. Why not add a couple more today.
Silverware is hardly coming Liverpool´s way everyday, not even every season, so this is a chance we must grab with both hands and feet. If Liverpool lose to Aston Villa then this season is another crappy one. We are out of the top four fight, in all likelihood anyway, and the FA Cup is the only way to salvage something from this campaign. So the game versus Villa is simply one we have to win. I think we will scrape through in the end to set us up for a dream final versus Arsenal on the 30th of May.
This is the guys I trust to do the business today (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Dejan Lovren. RWB: Glen Johnson. DM: Lucas Leiva. CM: Jordan Henderson. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Fabio Borini. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
Skrtel has been suspended but should come into the team straightaway. He is our best central defender. And when he is back we could revert to a back three after being forced to play with a back four in a few games due to the absence of key figures. Glen Johnson has been playing quite well and since he is a bit of a defensive liability and having his best qualities in attack a position as right wing back should suit him. In central midfield Joe Allen has been poor lately and should be benched and I don´t think Gerrard is ready to start.
Jordon Ibe is cup-tied so Fabio Borini should get another chance. I would place Sterling centrally in the three man forward line and Coutinho to the left. Lately Sterling has been playing to the left which doesn´t suit him and even if Coutinho had a blinder in his last game as a false nine I am sure that his best position is on the left cutting in and using his lethal right foot for passing or shooting. As for Daniel Sturridge he is is said to be a doubt for the match but if he is fit he should start ahead of Borini.
I am a bit nervous about how Liverpool will perform. But if we take command directly then I think it will end well. Let´s keep our fingers crossed as:
We Go Again.