No Ian Wright for Palace, as we’ve already touched upon. Garry Thompson, bought from Watford as his stand-in, is cup-tied, so John Salako may be detailed to assist Mark Bright up front.
Peter Beardsley returns to the Liverpool XI, having recovered from a knee injury. Steve Nicol failed a late fitness test and misses out.
Crystal Palace: Nigel Martyn, John Pemberton, Richard Shaw, Andy Gray, Gary O’Reilly, Andy Thorn, Phil Barber, Geoff Thomas, Mark Bright, John Salako, Alan Pardew.
Subs: David Madden, Rudi Hedman.
Liverpool: Bruce Grobbelaar, Glenn Hysen, David Burrows, Gary Gillespie, Ronnie Whelan, Alan Hansen, Peter Beardsley, Ray Houghton, Ian Rush, John Barnes, Steve McMahon.
Subs: Barry Venison, Steve Staunton.
Referee: George Courtney (Spennymoor, County Durham).
It’d be fair to say Crystal Palace could do without crossing Liverpool’s path again this season. There’s no need to bring up that 0-9 collapse at Anfield last September again; the insipid 0-2 defeat at Selhurst Park this January, in which star scorer Ian Wright suffered a hairline fracture of the shin, was miserable enough. Suffice to say, if Steve Coppell had the chance to handpick Palace’s opponents for this FA Cup semi-final, it wouldn’t be Kenny Dalglish’s champions-elect.
Liverpool went top of the First Division table last weekend. Back-to-back wins over Southampton and Wimbledon have put them three points clear of Aston Villa with a game in hand, and so an 11th championship in 18 years now looks very much on the cards. They’re favourites to retain their FA Cup, too, hoping to become the first club in the entire history of English football to win the Double twice. They’ve not been at their sparkling best this season, but it doesn’t really matter: so far, their second-gear stylings have proved more than good enough.
Palace by contrast aren’t totally free of relegation worries yet. They’re in 15th spot – one ahead of Alex Ferguson’s misfiring Manchester United – and are still without their stricken talisman Wright. But after the Anfield annihilation, they bolstered their defence with dependable keeper Nigel Martyn and experienced centre-half Andy Thorn. And their recent form has been more than decent: six wins from the last ten in all competitions, a run including victory at Spurs and a win over title hopefuls Villa. Their cup run hasn’t been as spectacular as fellow surprise semi-finalists Oldham Athletic – Portsmouth, Huddersfield, Rochdale, Cambridge United – but you can only beat what’s put in front of you. And it’s generated some much-needed confidence, and a little bit of momentum, during difficult times.
Even so, few expect Palace to set off a seismic shock this lunchtime. They’ll just be hoping not to suffer another gubbing, especially as this game is being transmitted live on BBC1 as part of an epochal double-header with the United-Oldham tie, the two games sandwiching the EastEnders omnibus. So will Liverpool reach their fourth FA Cup final in five seasons? Or can Palace upset odds that are very much stacked against them? We’ll find out before our visit to Albert Square. It’s the first part of the BBC’s all-new super Sunday! It’s the greatest cup competition in the world! It’s on!
Kick off: 12 midday.