Friday, March 24, 2006

FA Cup Semi Final Draw

Well, the semi-final draw was going to go one of two ways: either Chelsea and Liverpool would be kept apart until a likely final, or they’d be drawn together now. And, of course, it was the latter.

Obviously I was hoping to avoid Chelsea until the final – and ideally that someone else would knock them out for us – but you can’t expect many favours in this game. We’ve already beaten Man Utd, and now it looks like – if we’re to claim a domestic trophy this season – we’ll have to beat Chelsea too. That was always likely, even if it was saved for the final (though at least then there’d be the consolation of runners up medals).

I think a lot of neutrals will probably be reasonably pleased to have avoided a Chelsea vs Liverpool final, but I don’t think that’s wise. It’s true, some of the games between the two have been the rather boring 0-0 sort where each side cancels each other out (as in the two CL matches this season), but there have been some more entertaining matches – e.g. last season’s League Cup final went to extra time and produced five goals.

I think the shape of the match will depend largely on the circumstances. In our Champions League encounters, Liverpool have generally only needed to shut up shop to get the better of Chelsea – so who can blame us for doing so? In a final, there’s obviously far more incentive for each side to go for it to win. Another Chelsea vs Liverpool final could’ve been a cracking match, whereas a semi-final is likely to be cagey, with neither team wanting to fall now.

As it is, whoever wins this will be an overwhelming favourite. Of course, I wouldn’t take victory for granted – Charlton have beaten us this season, while Boro have done Chelsea – but for a while it’s been clear who the two ‘heavyweights’ left in the draw are. That’s another reason I think Chelsea vs Liverpool would’ve made a better final – the alternative is it could be as out-sided as Man Utd’s 4-0 thrashing of Wigan in the League Cup final – wouldn’t we rather it had been Arsenal in Wigan’s place? Sure Man Utd vs Arsenal matches aren’t always the most exciting, but at least you know you get two good teams with intense rivalry.

Still, while I was disappointed with the draw, we do actually have a better record against Chelsea in semi-finals (beating them in last year’s CL semi) than finals (losing last year’s Carling Cup). If there’s to be any domestic silverware – or at least another trip to Cardiff – we need to carry that on.


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