By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Graeme Souness would love to see Liverpool meet and beat Everton in an all-Merseyside Capital One (League) Cup final at Wembley next month but he does not expect it to happen.
That is because the former Liverpool skipper, now 62, suspects old rivals Everton will be out of the running after this week’s semi-final second legs.
Although both sides hold one goal leads, over Stoke City and Manchester City respectively, Souness can see only the Reds progressing.
“It would be great for the city obviously, but as much as I would love it, I can’t see it happening,” he told Reuters in an interview when asked whether history might repeat itself.
“I think Manchester City have the best group of players and City will be happy going back to the Etihad with a 2-1 deficit after the first leg at Goodison.”
Liverpool have won the cup a record eight times and, in 1984, it was Souness who scored in a 1-0 final replay victory over Everton that brought a fourth successive triumph in the competition.
Speaking on behalf of the Football League and sponsors Capital One, Souness said Liverpool had a great chance at Anfield because Stoke had failed to take advantage of Liverpool’s injuries at the back in the first leg.
Only when they brought on Peter Crouch late in the game — “a big man challenging the makeshift central defence of Lucas Leiva and Kolo Toure” — did anything change.
“I don’t think it will be a formality for Liverpool because they are still missing their injured defenders and Stoke are a good team this year,” said Souness.
“But I think if there was a night for going longer, a bit more direct than their “pass it, pass it” game, it was that night for Stoke. If they go long at Anfield on Tuesday they could still cause Liverpool a lot of problems, but Liverpool are in a great position.”
Liverpool’s defensive frailties were shown up at Norwich City on Saturday where they conceded four times but still won a crazy game 5-4 thanks to a stoppage time winner from Adam Lallana.
Speaking before the match, Souness’s analysis of Liverpool was almost prophetic.
“They have been hit and miss all season and given too many daft goals away. But saying that they’re playing for a place in a cup final, just one game away, 1-0 up at Anfield. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I think they can do it.”
The form of Manchester City, his tip at the start of the season, has only reaffirmed his belief that they will provide the opposition at Wembley on Feb.28.
“I chose them because they have the best group of players and can handle injuries better than anyone else because they are so strong,” he said.
City had also shown “a weakness and a vulnerability at times I didn’t think was there and lost some games they shouldn’t have lost”, he added, but that was to be expected.
“Generally big teams will have one game a season when they get rolled over and that’s a wake-up call for them: ‘hey we are not as good as we think we are’ and they kick on from there,” he said.
“City have had several of those wake-up calls this year, losing at home to West Ham, getting thumped at Tottenham, but I think they will be too strong for Everton to handle on Wednesday.”
(Editing by Alan Baldwin)