As part of our Everton Rewind series we are going back 11 years to April 2009, with Everton preparing for an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United at Wembley, their first visit to the national stadium since 1995. Here’s how we see the Blues lining up for tomorrow’s game.
Sunday, April 19, 2009 represents Everton’s most pivotal game of not only this season so far, but of the last few campaigns, too.
Only grand slam-chasing Manchester United stand in the way of an FA Cup final for the Blues; their first since they faced Alex Ferguson’s men on that unforgettable day on May 1995.
David Moyes leads the Toffees to Wembley in good nick, too; Everton have lost just one of their 11 games in all competitions since suffering a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford on January 31.
But the Scot will doubtless need his side to pull out all the stops if they are to record their first victory over United since April 2005. Indeed, not only do their opponents lead the way in the Premier League, but after Carling Cup glory last month, they reached the semi-final of the Champions League on Wednesday, as well as, of course, remaining in the hunt for the FA Cup.
With no margin for error on Sunday, how will Moyes set up his side as they attempt to take one huge step closer to ending their 14-year trophy drought?
Tactics and Formation
As you’ll see below, we probably know as many as ten players who will start for Everton tomorrow; such has been the consistency of their form in recent weeks.
We can expect the usual 4-4-1-1, with the same settled back line, with Tim Cahill playing in the advanced role that he’s taken to like a duck to water this season, and with - hopefully - Louis Saha leading the line, providing he is deemed fit enough to do so. Mikel Arteta remains a huge miss, but the Blues have got by competently so far since his season-ending ligament injury in February.
As for United, it’s difficult to know what exactly to expect. Sure, it will be a fiercely difficult examination regardless - they are chasing a third successive league title and second consecutive Champions League for a reason, after all - but Ferguson has shown a proclivity for rotation in this competition so far.
Back-up goalkeeper Ben Foster has been given the nod in most domestic cup games over the imperious Edwin van der Sar, while Ferguson may choose to rest some of his regulars following the mental exertions of their Champions League quarter-final second leg away to FC Porto on Wednesday, and with an eye on this week’s Premier League clash with Portsmouth.
Carlos Tevez was rested for that Porto win, though, so will likely play a key role. And maybe another chance for new kid on the block Federico Macheda to make more headlines after two goals in a week at the start of April for the 17-year-old?
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Tim Howard - 10/10
Leighton Baines - 10/10
Joleon Lescott - 10/10
Phil Jagielka - 10/10
Tony Hibbert - 10/10
Steven Pienaar - 10/10
Phil Neville - 10/10
In fantastic form of late, this is Neville’s chance to show his mettle and be the captain that leads Everton to their first FA Cup final since 1995 by beating his boyhood and former club.
Marouane Fellaini - 10/10
Leon Osman - 10/10
Tim Cahill - 10/10
The first ten here have started the last two league games and pretty much pick themselves here, in all honesty.
Louis Saha - 8/10
The former Red Devil faces a race against time to recover from a virus and face his old club on Sunday.
Saha has only managed five goals since his summer move from Old Trafford, but with Man City loanee Jô cup-tied and James Vaughan also fighting to be fit, it might be a case of needs must for Moyes to throw the Frenchman in from the beginning.
Joseph Yobo - providing the Nigerian, who has not played since the 3-1 home win over Stoke on March 14, also declares himself fit.
Lars Jacobsen - unlikely to see him getting the nod over Hibbert. But if Saha is out, Moyes could always push Cahill up front, Fellaini further forward, move Neville to midfield and pick Jacobsen to deputise at right-back.
Dan Gosling - the hero of the fourth round derby clash, but fanciful to expect him to start on Sunday.
James Vaughan - another who faces a fitness test, injury-hit Vaughan hasn’t featured since mid-November but could make a return to the 18 here.
To dash United’s hopes of a clean sweep would be a feather in Moyes’ own cap, but it would mean more to give starved Evertonians even a scent of silverware again. The Champions League qualification was as commendable as it was unpredictable, but to lift the FA Cup would eclipse even that great feat.