DAVID MOYES has rolled the dice. And it may just be the boldest move yet in his 10 years in charge of Everton FC.
Liverpool fans will forever remember the 217th Merseyside derby for the wonderment of Steven Gerrard, whilst Everton supporters are not yet sure what to think.
Should Goodison Park celebrate an FA Cup quarter-final win on Saturday afternoon then Moyes’ team selection and the 3-0 defeat at Anfield will swiftly be forgotten.
The derby will be a blotch on a season when they went back to Wembley.
But if Everton are dumped out of the competition then the inquisition will be as intense as it has ever been.
It is a gamble and Moyes is playing a high stakes game but a success would arguably rank as the 48-year-old’s shrewdest move of the lot.
You do not mess with games between Liverpool and Everton. You don’t take the fixture lightly. You go full-blooded, with total commitment and give your best.
Derbies mean too much to too many people.
Make no mistake, EFC battled hard on Tuesday night and could in no way be faulted for effort but through the fog of war, they could see the arch again.
Nearly three years since they last ventured down Wembley Way, only Sunderland stand between them and a return.
Moyes made it clear with his team selection that the Black Cats were more of a priority than Liverpool this week whilst Gerrard and company needed the incendiary atmosphere to light a fire under their season.
It always threatened to be a difficult night for the Goodison side.
Trophies, silverware and glory at the national stadium would far outweigh a derby victory, even if it had come at the other side of Stanley Park, an area traditionally barren for Everton and a place Moyes has yet to triumph.
Unbeaten in seven matches, Everton were the form side heading in yet there’s little doubt the six changes from last weekend’s win over Tottenham Hotspur left them weakened.
Moyes blamed defensive mistakes for the loss and will feel there was still sufficient quality in the side to have returned home with something to show but knows having his strongest squad available to him come 12.45pm on Saturday was of greater importance.
Moyes will make no apology for Tuesday’s team selection and why should he?
If this had been anyone other than Liverpool – like it was Blackburn Rovers four days before the 2009 quarter-final with Middlesbrough – then there would have been significantly less scrutiny.
A derby complicates matters but Moyes has ruled with his head and not his heart.