Cardiff City and Liverpool will contest the seasons first piece of domestic silverware in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday.
Liverpool make their first appearance at the new Wembley in Sunday’s showdown and will be aiming to add to their record of 7 League Cup titles, which would also equal Manchester United’s record for the most English domestic cup wins of 15.
Cardiff on the other hand are no strangers to the national stadium in London and will be making their fourth appearance in as many years.
The Bluebirds have done a fantastic job in reaching the final but have enjoyed a favourable route on their way with a 2-0 home win over Premier League side Blackburn Rovers being their only scalp of any significance. Malky Mackay’s men swept aside Oxford United, Huddersfield Town, Leicester City and Burnley in previous rounds, before disposing of Crystal Palace on penalties in a two-legged semi-final.
Liverpool have had a much tougher route to the final having been drawn away in each round leading up to the semi’s which included trips to Exeter City, Brighton, Stoke City and Chelsea. The Reds also overcame Manchester City in the semi-finals. After a hard-fought 1-0 first-leg victory at The Etihad, the Merseysider’s booked their place in the final with a 2-2 draw in the second leg at Anfield, Liverpool’s only home tie of the draw.
Cardiff will give late fitness tests to captain Mark Hudson and Stephen McPhail before the game. Hudson has been struggling with a calf problem, while McPhail has missed the last four games due to the affects of an immune system disorder called Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Semi-final penalty hero Tom Heaton has recovered from an ankle injury and is expected to continue in goal having been selected for every one of the Bluebirds League Cup ties ahead of first choice keeper David Marshall.
Kenny Dalglish is expected to field his strongest team and will welcome back Daniel Agger to partner Martin Skrtel at the centre of defence after the Dane was rested in Liverpool’s FA Cup fixture against Brighton last Sunday, meaning Jamie Carragher will drop to the bench. If sentiment takes over, Dalglish may bring on the veteran defender at some stage during the second-half.
Craig Bellamy has recovered from the back spasms which kept him out of last weeks game and is likely to be given a start after some world-class performances over the last month. The game also represents a meaningful one for Bellamy who is Cardiff native and also played there on-loan last season from Manchester City.
Captain Steven Gerrard, and Luis Suarez are certainties to start but Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing, Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing are among the players who will be unsure of their place in the starting XI.
Liverpool will start the final as strong favourites but have often struggled to break down the so-called lesser teams this season when the impetuous has been on them to attack.
Cardiff, who are currently sat in the playoff positions in the Championship, will be hoping to pull off a major shock by mirroring Birmingham’s win over Arsenal in last seasons Carling Cup Final.
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