After Saturday’s hard-fought 2-1 FA Cup fifth round win over Crystal Palace, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool have given themselves every chance of lifting the famous old trophy come the end of the season.
But do Liverpool have to win the FA Cup to save their topsy-turvy season? Obviously, with the imminent departure of captain and club legend Steven Gerrard, it would be the perfect send-off for a player who has done so much for the Merseyside club during his illustrious 16-year career at Anfield.
With the final taking place on Gerrard’s birthday, Rodgers told the Guardian recently that there would be no better goodbye present:
“I think the FA Cup final is on his birthday, so there would be no better way, for him. It would be a wonderful send-off for him,” said Rodgers. “There are a lot of games to play in between. If we could do it, it will be really special.”
But to suggest Liverpool must win the FA Cup is probably a little bit over the top. Of course they would love to, and not being able to capitalise of last season’s second place Premier League finish has been a massive disappointment for everyone involved with the club. Nonetheless, the way the FA Cup has panned out this season, the Reds have a real chance of winning the trophy for the first time since 2006.
With giants Manchester United and Arsenal going head-to-head in the quarter-finals, Liverpool’s home tie with Blackburn Rovers becomes even more important. No disrespect to Rovers, who had an excellent 4-1 win over Stoke City in round four, the Reds really should be looking to put Gary Bowyer’s team to the sword and confirm a Wembley semi-final spot. The draw has also set up a Midlands derby as Aston Villa host West Bromwich Albion, and League One side Bradford entertain Championship side Reading.
It’s been far from the usual FA Cup campaigns we’ve been so used to seeing in recent years. With giant-killings galore – including Bradford City’s memorable 4-2 win at Chelsea and Middlesbrough’s superb 2-0 victory over Manchester City – this FA Cup campaign will certainly live long in the memory.
With the cup aside, Liverpool still have a good chance of gaining one of the much-coveted top four spots. Securing Champions League football for next season must still be Brendan Rodgers’ number one priority, but that shouldn’t deter too much attention from FA Cup success. The Reds currently sit in seventh place, four points off of Southampton who currently occupy the last Champions League position.
With a number of clubs all vying for what looks like just two remaining top four spots, Liverpool have certainly got their work cut out to overhaul all those teams. Which makes the FA Cup an excellent opportunity to somewhat save their season from disaster.
All the omens in the world are pointing to Liverpool’s name being etched into this year’s FA Cup. There are still a few big clubs who will have their say, but wouldn’t it just be so fitting to see Steven Gerrard lifting a trophy in a Liverpool shirt, one final time?