FAVOURITES have frequently come a cropper on Grand National day but Kenny Dalglish insists it’s a tag that won’t bother his Liverpool side in today’s FA Cup semi-final.
Despite their superior league form, Everton boss David Moyes has been desperate to portray the Blues as underdogs in the build up to the Wembley showdown.
The bookies narrowly agree but Dalglish has rubbished the idea that puts any extra pressure on his players to deliver.
“What difference does it make who is favourite?” he said.
“I feel like Paddy Power! We’re just going out there to play a game. You don’t walk out with a plaster across your head saying ‘we’re favourites’.
“If we’re favourites, we’re favourites and I don’t have any problem with that.
“That’s not us making that decision, it’s not Moyesy, it’s the bookmakers and I think you’ll find there’s not -much in it with the bookies.
“I don’t see the big issue. Whatever gets said beforehand doesn’t matter. It will all come down to what happens on that pitch.
“What we do on the day is going to be far more important than what we’ve done at any other stage of the season. The build up is irrelevant.”
Today will be the fifth time Dalglish has led Liverpool into an FA Cup semi-final.
Only once have they failed to reach the final with the 4-3 defeat to Crystal Palace in 1990 the club’s solitary exit at this stage of the competition under the Scot.
However, none of those previous semis were held at Wembley and as Merseyside’s two giants prepare to meet in the capital for the first time in 23 years Dalglish admits there is no playing down the size of the occasion.
“Playing a semi-final is special, playing at Wembley is special but then you add Everton into it, our local rivals, and that makes it a wee bit extra special,” he said.
“For us there are three ingre-dients there and we know what the rewards are.
“It’s not like any other game. We won’t try to kid anyone else that it is like that.
“We know we are up against a team in a really good run of form who we know will be well up for it.
“We know what we need to compete against. Whether the experience of having been there already this season in the Carling Cup final helps or hinders us remains to be seen.”
Lifting that trophy under Wembley’s giant arch seven weeks ago failed to provide the springboard fans had hoped for the rest of the campaign.
Liverpool have won just two of their eight Premier League games since that dramatic afternoon against Cardiff City to dash hopes of competing for a Champions League spot.
Director of football Damien Comolli paid the price for that failure when he was sacked this week but Dalglish has insisted the Frenchman’s departure won’t prove to be a distraction today.
In fact the manager believes their latest league outing, Tuesday night’s last-gasp 3-2 victory at Blackburn with 10 men, has ensured spirits are high ahead of the meeting with the Blues.
“The other night showed you how important the players can be for each other,” Dalglish said.
“The two early goals put every-one in a good frame of mind and we were playing very well up until the sending off.
“With 10 men we showed great determination. We had six players aged 23 or under on the pitch and the young lads got great help from players around them like Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel.
“It was rewarding to get that win as everyone worked so hard together. It was helpful for us to get that positive result.
“We have to ensure we’re ready physically, mentally and tactically for Saturday.
“We treated the Carling Cup with respect and we’ve done the same with the FA Cup.
“We know we’re in for a difficult game as Everton will be equally as determined as us to get through.”
Much could depend on the performance of keeper Brad Jones, who finds himself in the spotlight following suspensions for Pepe Reina and Alexander Doni.
Peter Gulacsi is also available for duty after his loan spell at Hull City was terminated but the 21-year-old Hungarian is set to be on the bench.
Dalglish is ready to put his faith in Jones who will be making just his fourth appearance for the Reds.
The manager is full of admiration for the way the Australian shot-stopper has dealt with the tragedy of losing his five-year-old son Luca to leukaemia last year.
It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for Jones whose partner Dani gave birth to their son Nico last week. Then 16 months after his last outing for Liverpool he found himself in the thick of the action against Blackburn on Tuesday night and saved a penalty with his first touch.
“Brad will be happy he got a few minutes under his belt at Blackburn,” Dalglish added.
“He’ll be excited as everyone else is about playing. That’s what the squad is there for – to cover for every eventually.
“It’s credit to Doni that he kept himself fit and active and sharp, and Brad’s the same.
“What’s happened to Brad would have tested most people. You can only guess what it must be like to go through what he’s been through. He’s shown a tremendous amount of strength of character.”