City rivals riding high on emotion

Two teams, and their thousands of supporters who normally occupy stadiums 500 yards apart, travel down from Liverpool in the north of England to London in the south to play an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley.

The game falls on the 23rd anniversary of 96 Liverpool fans being crushed to death at another semifinal in Sheffield in 1989.

Players of both teams will wear black armbands, floral tributes will be laid by Steven Gerrard and Phil Neville - the captains - and there will be a period of silence before kick-off to commemorate the occasion.

Kenny Dalglish believes it is almost symbolic the two clubs should meet again so respects can be paid. "It's coincidental that it's Liverpool and Everton at Wembley again because that was the final that year [1989]," the Liverpool manager said.

"It's going to be very emotive for everybody. The Evertonians were affected by Hillsborough as well as the Liverpool fans, with family members who never came home. It will be poignant and I'm sure both sets of fans will grace the minute's silence with the dignity they've shown since 1989."

While remembering the Hillsborough victims will be paramount before kick-off, once the whistle goes the two neighbours will go into fierce battle for a place in the final next month.

Winning or losing this game will make or break the season for these neighbors and rivals.

Liverpool, the red team in their shared city, needs the FA Cup to satisfy the owners from Boston that their investment is on the right path. Everton, the blue side, craves a buyer to put it on anywhere near a level financial field.

The clubs have met 217 times. Liverpool has won 87 and Everton 66; 64 games were drawn.

And into all of this step two men who have never played in the Liverpool derby. Everton's impressive new Croatian striker, Nikica Jelavic, will be shooting against Liverpool's third-string goalie, Brad Jones.

The Australian keeper steps up because Pepe Reina and Alexander Doni are suspended. But nerves might not be Jones's paramount emotion this weekend: His partner, Dani, gave birth to a son last week. Five months ago, the couple's first child died of leukemia.


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