The FA Cup semi-finals are set to get underway on Saturday at Wembley, with a thrilling 'double derby' affair the bill on offer. Passage through to the final could be prize enough for many a club, however, this year each last-four fixture comes with an added twist as local bragging rights will be on the line. In an enticing semi-final line-up, Liverpool take to the pitch first against Merseyside rivals Everton on Saturday, while Tottenham Hotspur will clash with Chelsea in a repeat of the first all-London final back in the 1960s on Sunday.
The weekend marks a rare occasion in FA Cup history, with there being just two previous instances of ‘double derbies’ at the semi-final stage of the tournament. First, in 1950, Liverpool defeated Everton 2-0 at Maine Road, Manchester City’s former home, while Arsenal claimed a 1-0 win over Chelsea after extra time in a replay at White Hart Lane after an initial 2-2 draw.
And, in 1993, with both ties played at Wembley for the first time, Arsenal edged Tottenham Hotspur 1-0, and Sheffield Wednesday secured a 2-1 win over Sheffield United.
Just as in 1950, the cities of Merseyside and London will go head to head once again as Liverpool and Everton, and Tottenham and Chelsea go to battle for a place in the FA Cup final.
However, this time around, instead of Arsenal, it is Tottenham who will take on Chelsea. In anticipation of their last-four match, Spurs defender Ryan Nelsen has said it will be a massive game, telling Spurs TV Online: “We’ve got to look ahead to Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final. It’s a big game for the club and a great opportunity. There will be a lot of twists and turns before the end of the season.”
Tale of a London derby
Tottenham’s closest rivals Arsenal won the cup back in 1950 over Chelsea with Tom Whittaker at the helm. In doing so, the Gunners never had to leave the London capital as they enjoyed home victories over Sheffield Wednesday (1-0), Swansea Town (2-1), Burnley (2-0) and Leeds United (1-0) before the semi-final matches at White Hart Lane and the final in Wembley.
In front of an incredible crowd, Freddie Cox and Leslie Compton, the latter England’s oldest debutant at 38-years-old, scored in the first last-four match for the Gunners, while England star Roy Bentley netted both goals for the Blues. But, it was Cox, a former Spurs junior, who delivered the decisive blow in the replay.
Despite that historic loss, Chelsea along with English midfielder Frank Lampard will be hoping they end the better side against Spurs on Sunday to set them en route for a seventh cup win. Lampard has praised interim manager Roberto Di Matteo ahead of the semi-final, and told the BBC: “I think he has made a big change to everyone here. I think you can see the atmosphere in the squad here by looking at the results - they speak for themselves. It’s not easy for him to come in from being number two to take charge. He loves this club; he’s got it in his heart.”
Lampard went on to add a note of caution: “It’s very exciting times. We are still fighting on a few fronts, but we know it can all get taken away very quickly.”
Liverpool and Everton meet again
In the other 1950 derby, a crowd of 72,000 saw Anfield legends Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell both score to help Liverpool book their place in the final. Liverpool and Brazilian midfielder Lucas, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, is looking forward to Saturday’s semi-final. “I think it’s a fantastic game for both sides, the first semi-final at Wembley,” Lucas said to LFC magazine.
“It’s clear that we are not in a good moment. We can still get through to the final of the FA Cup. That would be a very good title to win. If we could win two competitions out of the three that we’ve entered it would be very important for the club.”
Meanwhile, Everton manager David Moyes is relishing the opportunity to contest the first Merseyside semi-final ever to be staged at Wembley. “It’s magical to go to Wembley again,” Moyes told Everton’s official website. “To take Everton to Wembley and to take them into a derby game as well is something special. It hasn’t happened that often. It used to happen a lot. I think the 1980s was probably the time when it happened most, but I think to be manager of Everton, take them back to Wembley again and to get the supporters there, I think that’s special.”
The first time both semi-finals were played at Wembley was back in 1993, when Tony Adams’ goal separated north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham in front of 76,263 fans. In the other last-four derby, Mark Bright notched an extra-time winner to send Sheffield Wednesday past local rivals Sheffield United into the final. Chris Waddle had scored first for Wednesday, while Alan Cork equalised before Bright's intervention.
And, as in 'double derby' weekend's past, this year's semi-final encounters will surely stamp their place in history and prove a rare moment to remember for rival fans from London and Merseyside alike.