Chelsea did have something to play for on Wednesday night, but succumbed to two brilliant strikes from Papiss Cisse. Liverpool didn’t have anything to play for against Fulham at home. They haven’t had anything to play for in the league for a while now. Both teams, but Especially Liverpool, have a lot riding on this FA Cup final.
A title, a meaningful title. Liverpool haven’t won one since 2006. But the FA Cup isn’t what it used to be. Maybe it’s the media emphasizing the Premier League, the importance of Champions League qualification. Maybe it’s the players and even the managers caring less about cup trophies. Like the fall of international soccer in the eyes of many. The league seems like the only important thing.
Dalglish talked about that heading into the FA Cup final on May 5 against Chelsea. He talked about Premier League obsession devaluation the FA Cup. It’s true in a way. But you couldn’t help but feel that Dalglish is somehow diverting attention from Liverpool’s terrible season.
Currently 8th in the Premier League, their recent form suggests that they might slip further down the table. Liverpool haven’t finished 8th since 1994. They haven’t finished below 8th in 50 years, when they were in the second division (the championship today). Dalglish probably won’t be fired no matter what happens by the time this season is over and will get the chance to fix his and others’ mistakes in 2012-2013. But there’s no running around the fact that Liverpool were terrible in 2012.
Any competition you enter you want to do the best you possibly can in. In the league it is 38 games and at the end you finish in a position which tells you how successful it has been. In cup competitions there are obviously not as many games and if you get beaten you are out.
There is an obsession with the Premier League simply because of what it holds for every club and the value financially for every club, the rewards you get for finishing in the top four and getting in the Champions League.
But there is a satisfaction from winning a cup competition which you don’t get from finishing fifth or sixth in the league. We have already tasted a cup final this year, albeit the Carling Cup, and getting to the FA Cup final should never be underestimated in any way.
It is a fantastic day out for everyone and is great reward for the efforts and commitment of the players and the respect we have paid to the competition. We think we deserve to be there and we are happy to be there. We will see what happens. We are in the cup final and there is no guarantee we will win but there is a guarantee we will give everything we have got to try to win. The season will be assessed when it’s finished.
For Roberto Di Matteo, winning the FA Cup might not even be enough. You never know what goes on in the mind of Roman Abramovich, who doesn’t smile too often. Fernando Torres hat tricks do get the best of your owners’ mood, but the 2-0 defeat against Newcastle at home all but destroyed Chelsea’s chances of making it into the Champions League through the league. Last time Chelsea didn’t play in the UCL was in the 2002-2003 season.
There’s always winning the Champions League, but people have to remember. Chelsea’s triumph over Barcelona was just a bit more than a fluke. True, there was heroism and a tremendous defensive effort in both legs, but there was an enormous amount of luck. There was no genius tactics from RDM. Simply courageous defending and a clash that Barcelona more lost than Chelsea won.
It’s going to be difficult now for us to reach fourth spot. We’ll keep pushing though until it’s impossible. We won’t give up. Tonight, we have to give credit to Newcastle. They did well and played a very good game against us. They have a player in their team at the moment that, whatever he touches, it goes in. But my players have given everything.
Everything might be enough to finish this season with a title, facing Liverpool in the FA Cup final. Chelsea have been successful at Wembley and Cardiff in recent years, winning the trophy three times in the previous five seasons. The biggest question is if they can pull off some more Champions League magic? Unlikely, but we’ve seen stranger things happen.