The Wembley stage is ready and set for the two semi-finals, of which the second will be between Liverpool, who have won the trophy seven times, and Aston Villa. Liverpool last won the competition in 2006 in one of the most memorable cup final’s in recent history, winning on penalties after a 3-3 draw against West Ham. Aston Villa’s last win came nearly 50 years previously in 1957 when they beat Man Utd 2-1. Both will be desperate to make the final in May against either Reading or Arsenal but 90 mins, extra-time and possibly penalties stand in their way beforehand.
Aston Villa’s form has been dreadful since the turn of the year but Tim Sherwood’s arrival has resulted in three wins in their last six and are now up to 15th in the league. Villa beat Blackpool and Bournemouth in the first two rounds before knocking out Midlands rivals Leicester and West Brom in round five and six.
Liverpool have got back on track with a win against Newcastle last time out after losing to Man Utd and then Arsenal which has severely pegged back their chances of Champions League next season. They are now however four points off due to Man City’s poor form so there still is hope of finishing this season on a major high. The Red’s run has started with a tight win against Wimbledon, ties against Blackburn and Bolton which both has to go to replays either side of victory against Crystal Palace in the fifth round.
The teams have met each other twice in the league and both seem to favour the opposite ground in recent times. Aston Villa have enjoyed their trips to Anfield in the last few years and won 1-0 in September. Liverpool’s form at Villa Park has been exceptional however and won on their last visit by a 2-0 score line to make it four league wins in a row there.
Villa have a fair few amount of players who are 50/50 for the semi-final and will hope to have most of them available on Sunday. Gabriel Agbonlahor will be on the top of that list and faces a late fitness test after picking up a knock with Tim Sherwood hoping he can have both him and in-form Christian Benteke on the pitch from the start. Carles Gil, Aly Cissokho, Ashley Westwood, Alan Hutton and Phillipe Senderos are all slight doubts but it is hopeful that most of that group will be fit to participate.
Liverpool’s big worry will be the fitness of Daniel Sturridge who is struggling with a hip injury and is touch and go to be available. Mamadou Sakho is definitely out after picking up a hamstring injury in the FA Cup quarter-final replay away to Blackburn whilst Adam Lallana is also a huge doubt with a groin problem. Mario Balotelli should be available after recovering from illness.
- The last time Liverpool and Aston Villa met in the FA Cup was also at the semi-final stage in the 1995/96 season in which Liverpool won 3-0 at Old Trafford.
- Although the game will be played at Wembley, Liverpool have won on their last four visits to Villa Park but Villa are unbeaten in their last four at Anfield, winning on two occasions.
- Liverpool have only been in front 19% of the time during their FA Cup run this season.
- Aston Villa have scored first in five of the last seven meetings with the Reds.
- Steven Gerrard has scored more Premier League goals against Aston Villa than any other side in his career (12).
League Head to Heads
2014/2015 Sat 17 Jan Aston Villa 0 – 2 Liverpool
2014/2015 Sat 13 Sep Liverpool 0 – 1 Aston Villa
2013/2014 Sat 18 Jan Liverpool 2 – 2 Aston Villa
2013/2014 Sat 24 Aug Aston Villa 0 – 1 Liverpool
2012/2013 Sun 31 Mar Aston Villa 1 – 2 Liverpool
2012/2013 Sat 15 Dec Liverpool 1 – 3 Aston Villa
Aston Villa: Christian Benteke
Belgian striker Christian Benteke has reinvented himself since Tim Sherwood became manager of Aston Villa and heads into this game in superb form with eight goals in his last six games which has taken him into double figures in the Premier League with 10 goals. Benteke did not feature in Villa’s quarter final win against West Brom but his only goal in the FA Cup this season was a crucial 88th minute winner in the third round against Blackpool showing that he has had a part to play in Villa’s cup run. He is a player than could prove to be a huge problem for the Liverpool defence especially with his strength, height and aerial abilities which he has shown in the premier League this season with 54% of his 279 headed duels being successful and he has scored two headed goals in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho
Since the start of the calendar year the Brazilian maestro Philippe Coutinho has been one of the standout players in the Premier League putting in some superb performances in crucial matches, which has been noticed as he has just recently been announced as one of the PFA player and PFA young player of the year contenders. He has also added more goals to his name as well with his latest goal being the winner in the quarter-final replay against Blackburn to send Liverpool through to the semi-final. Although his performances have shown that he is a very talented player he has been criticised for not getting enough goals and assists with only four goals and four assists in the Premier League this season and two goals in the FA Cup so the 22 year old will probably look to improve on his end product to help Liverpool get good results to help finish the season on a high.
I’m expecting a drama-filled, pulsating encounter which could go down right to the wire but I’m backing Liverpool to nick it in the end, just.
My Prediction – Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool (after extra-time)