Ian Rush: Liverpool's FA Cup Semi-Final Should Be Moved To Old Trafford
That little bit of extra confidence was the difference between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in their FA Cup quarter-final at the weekend.
Forest played well and on another day might have got a result, but once again Liverpool were able to win when they were not at their very best and that bodes well for the closing stages of the season.
They’ll face Manchester City in the semi-final. If you want to win it, you’ve got to beat the best along the way so I’m not disappointed the two best sides in the country will meet in the semis rather than the final.
As things stand, the game will be played at Wembley, but the pressure is building to have the game moved because direct rail services from both Liverpool and Manchester to London are suspended on the weekend the semi-final is scheduled for.
From where I’m standing, it makes absolute sense to move the game up north and my vote would be Old Trafford, which is pretty much on the door step of both clubs and it’s a stadium that has hosted many FA Cup semi-finals in the past.
If it goes ahead in Wembley, it could be chaos with so many people travelling by road – we’d almost certainly see a delay to kick-off because fans won’t make it on time.
The mayors of Manchester and Liverpool – Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram – have been banging the drum for a change of venue and I’m fully behind them because football is about supporters. With no trains running that weekend, it’ll be ridiculous if they have to play at Wembley.
On top of all that, I’m not a fan of the semi-finals being played at Wembley anyway. I appreciate the need to generate the revenue to cover the costs of building such a big stadium, but it really takes the shine off the traditional ‘road to Wembley’ feel about the FA Cup.
We used to play semi-finals at Villa Park or Old Trafford, and the latter definitely makes sense when there’s two northern teams involved in one semi as is the case this year.
April is now shaping up to be a very challenging month for both Liverpool and Manchester City. They’ve got to play each other in the Premier League on April 10 and then again a week later, with their Champions League ties tied in around that.
That said, they both have very strong squads and whichever manager makes best use of the players at their disposal will likely come out on top.
Benfica Draw For Reds
Liverpool got the Champions League draw they were hoping for in Benfica, but they knocked out a very good Ajax side in the last round so we’re not in the semi-final just yet.
Benfica are a bit like the Portuguese Liverpool. They’re very famous and have a great affinity with the European Cup having won it back-to-back in 1961 and 1962. They’re not doing so well in the league this season but they’ve come alive on European nights.
It’s not too dissimilar to Liverpool’s situation in 2005 when the team were struggling in the Premier League but came into their own in the Champions League and, of course, went on to produce one of the greatest nights in the club’s history in Istanbul.
Maybe Benfica can take some inspiration from that? I expect Liverpool to come through the tie but they need to be careful not to underestimate their opponents because you never know what might happen on European nights and that’s what makes them so special.
In the other tie on Liverpool’s side of the draw, you would expect Bayern Munich to take care of business against Villarreal. On paper, people are expecting a Liverpool vs Bayern semi-final and what a mouth-watering prospect that is.
If that is the case, it will bring back memories for me because my first European game was actually against Bayern Munich in the 1981 European Cup semi-final, so I hope the two clubs meet again in the last four this year.
You could say this international break has come at a bad time for Liverpool given the form they’re in but that’s football. When you’re losing, you want the breaks to come around, but when you’re winning you just want to keep on playing.
The big worry for managers is whether their players will come back fit or not. When I was playing, we very rarely played well after an international break because it can take time to get your mind back in to the club game having been away.
As managers, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish didn’t like the international breaks because they had the task of getting their players’ heads back in the game. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I have full faith in Jurgen Klopp’s ability to do that.
Wales' World Cup Dream
The international breaks may not be everyone’s cup of tea but as a Welshman there’s a lot riding on this one. I’m a little bit nervous about the Austria game because getting to the World Cup is so huge for this Wales team, it’s the last box to tick for a golden generation.
The players seem to be training and preparing well which is a good sign and hopefully Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are fit enough to start. I’ll be at the game so I’m looking forward to it and because the game is in Cardiff I’m expecting a raucous atmosphere.
Wales really need to make home advantage count because Austria are a good side. Maybe they’re not quite as strong as they were a few years ago, but they might be thinking the same thing about Wales, so something like home support can be the difference in tight games like these.
From a selfish point of view, I was quietly pleased Bale didn’t feature for Real Madrid against Barcelona at the weekend – I was worried he’d end up getting injured. He makes a massive difference for Wales when he’s on the field, his leadership goes a long way and the younger players look up to him.
If Wales do qualify for the World Cup, Gareth’s next club move is a crucial one. His contract is up at Madrid this summer so he’ll want to make sure he takes up the right offer if Wales are going to Qatar in December.
I’m sure there’ll be interest from the Premier League but it’s a very demanding league, so will he want to put his body through that if there’s a World Cup to go to? I’m not sure.
He’ll keep his options open and one of those offers might be Cardiff. It would not surprise me if he went there. He’s a Cardiff boy and even though they’re in the Championship I don’t think that would bother him too much.
He certainly wouldn’t be going there for the money but it ticks a lot of other boxes. He’d be doing Wales proud because it’s his hometown team and it would allow him to prolong his international career if he’s playing at a less demanding level in his club career.
Everton Should Stick With Lampard
I know a lot of Everton supporters and they were raving about the atmosphere at Goodison Park on the night of their late win 1-0 over Wolves in the Premier League. Unfortunately for them, they followed it up with a 4-0 loss to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup and suddenly the gloom is back around Goodison.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Everton at the moment, but I think Frank Lampard is right when he says the players need to show more fight. People may question him publicly criticising his players but he has to try something to get a reaction out of them and we’ll see if it works.
It’s interesting to see Lampard and Steven Gerrard evolve as managers simultaneously after being two of the greatest players of their generation. Gerrard suggested his Aston Villa players showed Arsenal too much respect at the weekend. We seem to be seeing their personalities as players come out in them as managers.
Everton are struggling, but I’m sure Lampard will be fine. Even if they get relegated I think they should stick with him. If the players can’t get going under him now he’ll bring in players who will, whether that’s in the Premier League or the Championship.
Man Utd Players in Spotlight
A lot has been made about Manchester United players being out and about while the club had break in fixtures after being dumped out of all cup competitions already this season. It’s alright being seen enjoying your personal life when you’re winning, but when you’re losing you’re going to feel heat.
People ask me if I’d rather be playing in today’s world and, to be honest, I wouldn’t. I’m glad I played when I did when there was no such thing as social media. For footballers these days, life is harder off the pitch than it is on the pitch.
On the pitch they’re all very talented and are able to express themselves, but off the pitch they can’t put a foot wrong because of social media. It’s a difficult thing for a human being to deal with. Yes, they get paid well, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a life outside of football.
At Liverpool at the height of our success, if we had two or three bad games Ronnie Moran would tell us all we’re going out on Monday night. When you’ve had a few drinks, you tend to say what you mean, so we aired our differences. It was like a release valve.
We’d all go back to training the next day with a clean slate and we’d all work harder together. That’s how we turned things around when we hit a bad patch, but there’s no way on earth Manchester United players of today could do something like that.
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