Liverpool and Cardiff City will make the journey south to London this weekend to do battle for the first major silverware of the season. The League Cup, now the Carling Cup, after many previous incarnations, has reached its final match of the 2011/12 season, and these two teams will walk out in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, determined to write their own little chapter of history in the annals of their clubs.
Liverpool’s impressive run in the tournament so far, has seen them knock-out the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, and has helped them reach their first cup final of any sort since 2007, when they played Milan in the final of the Champions’ League, losing 1-2. Domestically, it is Liverpool’s first cup final since Steven Gerrard inspired the Reds to a dramatic victory over West Ham in the 2006 F.A. Cup, and their first trip to Wembley since 1995.
Cardiff City’s run to the final included victory over Premier League Blackburn Rovers in the quarter final, and success against fellow Championship side Crystal Palace in the semis. Cardiff’s history includes an F.A. Cup triumph at Wembley, in front of over 91,000 fans in 1927, more recently however, the Bluebirds visited Wembley in 2008 for an F.A. Cup final against Portsmouth, losing out 1-0.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes his side’s performances this season have warranted the chance to fight for honours, and a victory would definitely go a long way to pacifying some of the, unjust, criticism that the club has faced since the Scot’s return. Likewise, Malkay Mackay believes that the hard work put in by his players this term has been deserving of the cup final spot, and he has been keen to stress that the result is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Cardiff have a couple of injury doubts for Sunday’s encounter, both goalkeeper Tom Heaton and skipper, Mike Hudson, have picked up slight knocks in recent weeks, however both seem to be winning their respective battles, and hope to be fit to make the starting eleven. Liverpool have no new injury concerns, with both Daniel Agger and Craig Bellamy back fit, posing a slight selection dilemma for Dalglish.
Having won the League Cup a record seven times in the past, Liverpool have nothing to prove in this competition. The last time that they won it though, was in 2001 at the Millenium Stadium in Cardifff, and the current crop of players, along with manager Kenny Dalglish, are determined to bring the silverware winning, glory days back to the Anfield Club. Cardiff City, on the other hand, have never won the English League Cup, but Malkay Mackay’s side will be desperate to at least put up a good fight at Wembley on Sunday, and if they can stay in the game in the early stages, they’ll believe that, despite the opposition, an upset is certainly possible. My money is, however, on the team from Merseyside.