Emile Heskey on FA Cup appeal ahead of Liverpool clash with Aston Villa

Exclusive – Emile Heskey has claimed that although winning the FA Cup was his own career highlight, the trophy has lost some of its appeal lately and he understands why Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hasn’t given away priority to competition.

Two of Heskey’s former clubs, Aston Villa and Liverpool, face off in the FA Cup on Friday night, in one of the most eye-catching matches of the third round.

The last time the two sides met in October, the Premier League champions suffered a shock 7-2 defeat, as they also came out of the League Cup for Villa 5-1 last season – although with a much weaker team.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League
Aston Villa surprised Liverpool earlier this season | Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Talk to 90 mins Ahead of Liverpool’s return to Villa Park, Heskey admitted that many will have Villa as favorites, given recent form.

“” We are talking about Liverpool having a rut. It’s three games, but if you go to the game before that, they’ve scored seven goals! “”

Heskey, on the form of Liverpool

“I think people will call them [Villa] the favorites but then can you go against what you know Liverpool can do? “Heskey said.

“We’re talking about them having a bit of a rut. It’s three games [without a win], but if you go to the game before that, they scored seven goals!

“With Liverpool, when we [of the front three] has a day off, the others are usually on their game while now most have their days off at the same time. “

Sadio Mane, Jurgen Klopp
Sadio Mane has only scored two goals in his last 12 Premier League appearances | Pool / Getty Images

As to whether Klopp – who have never beaten Liverpool beyond the FA Cup fifth round – should give more importance to the domestic cups, Heskey admitted he can see both sides of the a coach’s perspective.

“I wish they [do well in the FA Cup], because I’m from England and I know what it means to grow up watching the final, but when you’re a coach you think about priorities, ”he said.

“The priorities of many people are, when you are halfway [the table], stay in the Premier League and the other half are thinking about winning it.

“You’re only ten games away, probably less now, away from being sacked, so your focus is more on the games you think you can win and influence the league.

“There are a lot of games, especially this season. It’s so condensed. Matches are going to be called off and started on the road, where you’re going to have short periods between matches. And you’re going to have injuries, it’s hard, it’s very, very hard.

“It would be nice for them to play stronger teams in the FA Cup but I understand why they don’t.”

The 42-year-old Heskey was of course part of the 2001 triple-winning Liverpool squad, which won the National Cups and UEFA Cup under fire from Gerard Houllier.

“” I would ask foreigners which one was better for them, the FA Cup or the UEFA Cup. They would say UEFA. I would say FA “”

Heskey on the importance of the FA Cup

Asked if the FA Cup victory – in which the Reds came from behind to defeat Arsenal late – was the pinnacle of his own career, the former striker was unequivocal. However, he admitted that it was not the same for everyone, even at the turn of the century.

“100% [the FA Cup win was the pinnacle for me],” he said.

Liverpool celebrate FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup wins in 2001
Liverpool celebrate FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup victory in 2001 | Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

“I would ask foreigners which one was better for them, the FA Cup or the UEFA Cup. They would say UEFA. I would say FA and the other English people too.

“I don’t know if it still has the same appeal today. He loses it a bit. We can put the blame on all kinds of factors. Managers don’t play their strongest teams, games aren’t broadcast enough or whatever, I don’t know. “

After the trip to Villa Park on Friday, Liverpool are back in the Premier League to face Manchester United at Anfield on January 17.

With United playing their pre-derby game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could be top of the table by the time they visit Anfield, making it a game that suddenly seems to have meaning for the rest of the league. coming season.

Jurgen klopp
Klopp faces tough few weeks with clashes against Villa and Man Utd | Robin Jones / Getty Images

“I think it’s a defining game,” commented Heskey. “It sets a marker. No one expected, when United were 10th, that they would rise to the top with the potential to overtake Liverpool.

“So he places a marker where each team can mark their authority.”

BT Sport will be broadcasting several Emirates FA Cup third round matches live, including Aston Villa v Liverpool live on BT Sport 1 from 7 p.m. on Friday 8 January. For more information, visit bt.com/sport