David Moyes' gamble in the Merseyside derby was a calculated one, says our Fan Focuser.
Time for us to ramp up the previewing of this weekends game by bringing you another installment of Fan Focus, the feature where we speak to someone who covers the opposition and get their views on this weekends game.
This week, ahead of our FA Cup tie with Everton, we didn't go too far and spoke to Brian Lewis from SB Nation's Everton site, Royal Blue Mersey about the clash, the club and more as we look to cover the game from every angle right here on Roker Report.
We had questions, Brian had answers, so let's see how it turned out...How are Everton feeling ahead of this game. Up here we're all viewing the competition as a huge chance to do something big. Is it being built up as much on Merseyside?
RBM: For Evertonians this is a pretty big match. A win here would keep us alive at a chance for not only silverware, but also a Europa League place. As the season winds down it seems almost impossible for us to finish in the top 6 which is the only other way we could have a chance of qualifying for Europe.
It was a surprise to see the likes of Tim Cahill and Royston Drenthe were left out the starting eleven midweek. Do you feel this has added any pressure to the game on Saturday? Some have seen it as Moyes resting them for the game...
RBM: Although those omissions seemed shocking, delving into the details I would argue Moyes made the right decision to leave the two players on the bench. For all of Drenthe's talent on the attack, he is a huge liability in defense, the QPR match being a great example for how he gives and takes away in the same match. As for Tim Cahill, he flat out does not deserve to start for Everton. He has one goal in over a calendar year, and just doesn't appear to be effective anymore. I would much rather see a youngster like Barkley, or really anyone get the start over him.
That said, Moyes was definitely trying to rest some players. I think he puts more importance on this FA Cup match than a midweek derby match which is fine by me. In the span of 2 weeks we are playing 5 matches, and getting rest is important.
David Moyes is celebrating 10 years at Goodison. What's your one favourite Moyes Memory?
RBM: For me personally it came during this past summer when Everton visited the U.S. on their preseason tour. I had the chance to attend the Everton - D.C. United preseason friendly as a member of the press, and I got a chance to have a little chat with David Moyes. One of the biggest things Moyes gets criticized for is being too defensive, but in our conversation we spent most of the time talking about how to attack different defenses. It seemed to me that Moyes plays defensively because if he tried to play a more open style like a Swansea or Arsenal, Everton would get ripped to shreds. It was great being able to take that peak behind the curtain to see how Moyes thinks.
There's been constant speculation he might one day leave the club, do you think he's here to stay now?
RBM: I would say Moyes is here to stay until a bigger club comes calling. Obviously the one every pundit points to is Manchester United once Sir Alex Ferguson retires, but this summer will put that theory to the test. With Moyes apparently on the Chelsea shortlist, as well as Spurs probably needing a new manager, we will see if Moyes is just waiting to see what happens with United, or if he would be willing to take the plunge with a more chaotic club.
Do you feel playing midweek will mean your lads are a bit tired, or does or would you rather have a game straight away to put right the wrongs of the Merseyside derby?
RBM: Normally a midweek game would be cause for concern, but under David Moyes we haven't won against Liverpool at Anfield. Because of that, along with a lineup that showed 6 changes from the victory over Spurs, I'm more worried about the matchup rather than the lack of rest for the club.
We've got a less than stellar record at Goodison Park recently. How do you think Everton can get to us this time around?
RBM: The important thing for Everton is to start fast and keep attacking. To often we have a tendency to try and absorb pressure early on, which leads to conceding an early goal. If we can press Sunderland's defense constantly I think we have an excellent chance to win.
Who do you think will be the key men if you're to progress?
RBM: The central midfield is going to be the biggest key for us. Fellaini is almost certain to start, and the only question is who will partner him. If Phil Neville is his partner things could be rough for Everton. Fellaini and Osman did well in the victory over Spurs, so that would be my preferred pairing. That leaves the flanks for Drenthe and Coleman, which can cause all kinds of problems with that amazing speed.
On the flip side, we're quite resurgent under O'Neill. Is there an area of your team you're worried about or see any personnel in our ranks who could do damage?
RBM: When O'Neill was at Villa, we always seemed to struggle to break down his teams. Those squads always seemed to have a very disciplined defense when we played them, and that concerns me because we are not the most creative team on the planet. Most of our goals seem to come from defensive errors rather than moments of pure genius by our attack.
Do you think whoever wins this tie could be lifting the trophy in May?
RBM: I think it is certainly possible, especially if one or two upsets happen in the other quarterfinal matches. The nice things is that once you get to Wembley it seems like anything can happen. We had no business beating United in 2009, but thanks to some poor penalties and a great performance by Tim Howard we made it to the final. It really becomes anyone's trophy at that stage.
What's your prediction for the game then. Scores, scorers and anything else you want to add...
RBM: I feel like this is a match Everton should win. Before the loss on Tuesday Everton hadn't lost since January, and now we appear to be at full strength except for Darron Gibson. That said I have learned over the years that this is exactly the type of game Everton can drop. I'm pretty nervous, but I feel like this is going to end up being a 1-1 draw, forcing a replay at Sunderland.
Thanks very much to Brian for answering the questions. We did a similar thing with Royal Blue Mersey, so to check that out and generally get tip-top Everton opinion, head to http://www.royalbluemersey.com or follow them on Twitter too - @rbmersey