Cardiff City v Liverpool – Sunday 26th February – Wembley Stadium (18:00)
The first major domestic English trophy for the season, the Carling Cup, will be contested this Sunday between Championship side Cardiff City and Premier League outfit Liverpool at the home of football, Wembley Stadium. The Welsh side plays an attacking brand of football and with the Reds in great cup form this match promises to be a great spectacle for the neutral.
Cardiff seemingly had the easier road to the final than their opposition, having met just one Premier League side, in relegation strugglers Blackburn Rovers along the way. However, the Welsh club was convincing in their display against the premiership strugglers knocking them out 2-0 with goals from ex-Rangers striker Kenny Miller and centre-back Anthony Gerrard, the first cousin of Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. The Bluebirds have been under new management this season with the former Celtic, West Ham, Norwich and Watford Manager Malky Mackay taking over the reigns. Mackay has managed to recreate the successes of the previous regime by guiding them to a cup final and maintaining a promotion push despite being forced to dismantle and rebuild his Cardiff side. After losing 12 players during the course of the off-season, he has brought in as many players who have fitted in perfectly. Their recent form though has been very worrying as they have lost three of their last four matches. They have dropped to fourth in the Championship standings, six points adrift of log leaders Southampton. Their last match was extremely disappointing as they went down 3-0 to 16th on the log Ipswich Town. That clearly isn’t the form the Welsh outfit would have hoped to bring into this contest against a team of Liverpool’s calibre. However, in striker Kenny Miller they have plenty of experience and he is certainly a player that will be closely watched by the Liverpool back four.
In contrast Liverpool put the poor Old Trafford showing in their 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Manchester United behind them as they mauled championship side Brighton & Hove Albion 6-1 at Anfield in the fifth round of the FA Cup last Sunday. Admittedly, Cardiff City will be a different proposition at the neutral venue. Liverpool will travel to Wembley in the hunt for their first trophy since 2006’s FA Cup final penalty shootout victory over West Ham. But Dalglish is refusing to get carried away and according to BBC Sport, the Scotsman said, “Defeating Brighton has got us to the next round, but it doesn’t really help us in the Carling Cup.” The Liverpool boss was impressed with star trio Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll and Steven Gerrard, who started together for the first time against Brighton. Suarez in particular looks back to his best form, as he terrorised the Brighton backline throughout the 90 minutes. Liverpool had the more difficult passage en route to the final than their opponents, having to beat Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City along the way.
Cardiff will take inspiration from Birmingham’s 2-1 Carling Cup success against Arsenal last season at Wembley. However, Liverpool are confidently tipped to get the better of their Championship opponents and clinch the Carling Cup Trophy.