Baines: Everton can shock favourites
Everton are more than capable of pulling off an FA Cup final shock against Chelsea on Saturday according to left-back Leighton Baines.
The Merseyside club are preparing for their first FA Cup final since beating Manchester United 1-0 in 1995 and Baines believes that, although Everton will be regarded as underdogs for the tie, they can still defeat Guus Hiddink's side at Wembley. The English national stadium, reopened after rebuilding in 2007, played host to several famous giant-killing acts in its' old guise.
Wimbledon stunned Liverpool in 1988, Sunderland, then in the second tier, beat Leeds, then a major European force, in 1973 and West Ham, another second tier team at the time, shocked Arsenal in 1980. Although an Everton win wouldn't be quite so remarkable, it would still register as a significant surprise given Chelsea's vast resources and the depth of talent at Stamford Bridge.
"It's a game we have to believe we can win," Baines said. "We have to believe we can go and put in a good performance. It is always tough playing a side like Chelsea and I think it has been a long time since we have beaten them. But we have taken a point in both league matches this season and that will give us confidence going into the game.
"People will favour Chelsea and rightly so because they are expected to win something every year but that will put more pressure on them and hopefully we can just go and enjoy the match. We will to try and work out how to win. We work hard and help each other out and sometimes someone has to do someone else's job but we have no qualms about doing that and we will certainly work hard."
Everton beat Manchester United on penalties in the semi-finals this season, which also took place at Wembley. Toffees manager David Moyes has previously criticised the decision to play the last four ties there after outlining his opinion that the final should be kept as the only fixture played at Wembley to preserve the FA Cup's unique nature.
Baines agrees and he said: "I think the general opinion among those you speak to and among the players is that the semi-finals wouldn't be played at Wembley. You want the final to be there and that makes it extra-special.
"But it has been fantastic for us though because it has given the lads here the chance to play there beforehand and get the experience of playing there. Everyone will try and treat it like a normal game but we all know it isn't - it is a massive game and everyone picked on the day needs to remain composed."
Everton finished fifth in the Premier League and comfortably qualified for the UEFA Europa League for next term and Baines is confident that the club can eventually become the biggest club in the Premier League outside the recognised 'Big Four'.
"Finishing fifth in the league is something we want to keep doing. We want to be the next team after the top four and we want to bridge that gap between us and them. The gap at the moment is still very much visible. I think us and Aston Villa and Tottenham have quite a bit to do before we get there but we can do that. And if we take some silverware from the season then that will exceed all our expectations."