Kirk Confident Everton Will Embrace Cup Semi-Final Pressure

Willie Kirk says Everton are “motivated and focused” ahead of Wednesday night’s FA Cup semi-final at Birmingham City (7.15pm) and is confident his squad will embrace the pressure of competing in such a high-stakes contest.

The Blues head into the Damson Park showdown on the back of an outstanding 2-1 victory over WSL champions Chelsea in Sunday’s quarter-final at Goodison Park.

The thrilling success sustained Everton’s perfect start to the season, with the Toffees having also won their opening two WSL matches.

Birmingham, meanwhile, hit back from successive league defeats to see off Brighton & Hove Albion on penalties in their last-eight cup clash.

Kirk admits Everton will approach Wednesday's game as favourites and believes his team have the mental strength to handle the growing expectations surrounding the Club.

“Everyone feels confident and focused,” said Kirk, who was speaking at his pre-match press conference.

“There’s an exciting prospect of going to a Wembley final, but we all understand there’s a job in hand first.

“The preparation is the same as it was for Chelsea.

“There’s a different type of pressure but the players have to be ready to deal with that expectation.

"In the quarter-final, internally, we felt we could win. Externally, people probably thought Chelsea would win.

“The players have to take responsibility on their shoulders.

“I’m very confident against Birmingham there will not be any [complacency].

“That would be such a waste of good work that we did on Sunday. We don’t have that type of player.

“We have got a motivated squad who are desperate to get to that final.

“That’s what we’re focused on and we know if we don’t show up, it’ll be Birmingham that progress and not us."

Kirk revealed he has a fully-fit squad to choose from after everyone came through Sunday’s match unscathed.

Everton are aiming to get to their first FA Cup final since 2014, and last won the competition in 2010.

“There’s a lot of things than can motivate us and help us,” Kirk added.

“As a club, we want to get back to cup finals.

“It’s 10 years since we last won it, and a year ago we spoke about this competition and targeting the final.

“Ultimately, it’s about what we do on the pitch on Wednesday night.

“Birmingham have got a really strong group. We’ll be up against a very hard-working team.

"We know what gives them confidence and momentum. We have done our homework on them.

"We’ll need to start the game a lot more strongly that we did on Sunday.

“[Birmingham manager] Carla Ward has recruited well. I have watched their three games so far this season and they have a number of threats we need to be aware of.”

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Graham and Gauvin on target in FA Cup quarter-final success.

Kirk says Everton’s success against Chelsea offers his squad tangible evidence they can stand toe-to-toe with the best sides in the country.

The Scot also described the vibrant atmosphere at USM Finch Farm at present – with Everton’s men’s team also making a 100-per-cent start to the season.

“Up until now, it’s been me telling the players they can compete with the top teams in any one-off game,” he said.

“Until Sunday, it was just words. We spoke to the players about turning it into action and they certainly did that after a slow start.

“That first win against a top-three side [Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal] was important. The players needed it.”

Kirk added: “Everton is a good place to be.

“Both the men’s and women’s teams have started the season very brightly.

“Hopefully, we can both progress in our respective cup competitions on Wednesday and the winning run can go on as long as possible.”