Everton head to Wembley on a goal-scoring high
Everton's assistant manager, Steve Round, believes their recent upturn in goalscoring form puts them in a good position for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final derby against Liverpool at Wembley.
The Toffees have scored 12 times in their last five matches, including four against Sunderland on Easter Monday all from different players.By contrast, Liverpool have found the net seven times in their last five games.
During Everton's recent fine run their January signing Nikica Jelavic has scored four and Victor Anichebe two, with goals also coming from Magaye Gueye, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Leighton Baines.
"We are delighted with the current form, we are playing well and scoring goals," said Round. "Nikica has had a great impact for us. He looks a top-quality striker and when we did give him a breather it was good to see Denis Stracqualursi lead the line so well.
"Goals are coming from everywhere. Victor has got a couple in the last two, with the likes of Leon Osman scoring more – we can get goals from other places. We are always a threat on set-plays. Marouane Fellaini is always likely to get one and I think Tim Cahill is ready to start scoring again.
"I have seen the players step up more [recently] but I don't think it is with the semi-final in mind, I think it is just the momentum and confidence which has been building. I do see the players improving week in, week out."
Everton's last trip to Wembley – their first since 1996 – was for their 2009 FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea, while Liverpool were there as recently as February when they beat Cardiff City to lift the Carling Cup – though Round does not think that puts his team at a disadvantage.
"We have a lot of players with a lot of experience – John Heitinga has played in a World Cup final – and we have players who have played in big games [and] big arenas and that stands you in good stead," he said.
"I have been to many semi-finals and a few finals and it does help you to have that experience because you know what to expect. You are not going in there blind, you understand you have to play the game and not the occasion.
"I don't think we feel we are underdogs but we do feel Liverpool are probably just slight favourites. But the gap has closed dramatically.
"I think Liverpool just have the edge and I think the bookmakers will see it that way but our boys have steel in their eyes at the moment."
Everton have lost twice to their city rivals this season, including a 3-0 defeat at Anfield last month when manager David Moyes rested a number of players ahead of their quarter-final tie with Sunderland, and have won just one of their last six Liverpool derbies.
Round, though, feels a Wembley semi-final is a different kettle of fish entirely. "I think the team have massive determination regardless of previous results," he said. "It is Liverpool and when you play them you are right up for the game. Every single player is desperate to play and desperate to try to win for Everton."
Liverpool broke their winless run at Ewood Park on Tuesday night, leaving Blackburn Rovers' manager, Steve Kean, with a problem. Kean will focus on tightening up his defence as chances start to run out for his side to save themselves. That last-gasp 3-2 defeat to a 10-man Liverpool kept Rovers in the bottom three and their tough final month starts with a trip to Swansea City on Saturday.
Four successive league defeats have seen Rovers concede 10 goals, but what concerned Kean most was the manner of those defeats against Kenny Dalglish's side, who were 2-0 up early on thanks to two goals from Maxi Rodriguez inside 16 minutes before being pegged back twice by Yakubu.
"I thought that in the first five or six minutes we were OK – we were better than we were against West Brom [in Saturday's 3-0 defeat] – but on the first goal we got done on the counter-attack," he said. "But I always felt we could get back into the game, and once we got the second goal we had wave after wave of attacks. I felt we were going to win.
"We need to go into every game looking to improve, certainly on set-plays because we look as if we can score on a set-play at almost every opportunity but are looking a bit wobbly when set-plays come into our box.
"But we can't go into games thinking we need to score four or five goals to win" said Kean. "We need to close the back door and defend better – it is as simple as that."
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