MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Craig Bellamy of Liverpool goes up for a header with Gareth Barry of Manchester City during the Carling Cup Semi Final First Leg match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on January 11, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Both Liverpool and Manchester City are more interesting for their drama than their play, but one of them will earn a berth to the Carling Cup final on Wednesday
There is very little calm at Manchester City and Liverpool right now. The Citizens are battling Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli is on the verge of suspension and they are still without the Toure's thanks to the Africa Cup of Nations. Meanwhile, the Red are coming off of an embarrassing 3-1 loss to Bolton and the heat is starting to come down on Kenny Dalglish. As they get ready for Wednesday's Carling Cup semifinal though, it's Liverpool that are sitting pretty thanks to a 1-0 away win in the first leg that gives them the inside track to Wembley.
As much activity as there has been at both clubs in recent weeks, nobody could call the first leg between the teams active or entertaining. It was a downright dull match, filled with horrid passing, few chances and an all-around lack of imagination so it was no surprise the only goal came courtesy a stupid tackle. Stefan Savic took down Daniel Agger for a penalty and Steven Gerrard slotted it home. Aside from that, the match is probably best off being erased from your memory.
Unfortunately, it's tough to imagine the second leg being much better. Yaya Toure is away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, leaving a gaping hole in the center of the pitch for City, and Kolo Toure is also away, dorcing the mistake-prone Savic into action. Mario Balotelli also appears likely to miss the match through suspension for a stamp on Scott Parker's head, although he can still appeal the ruling and be eligible to play.
For Liverpool, nothing about their recent play can be described as positive. Luckily, they only have to protect a lead to make the final, but with the way they have played of late, it could very well be too much to ask that they protect that lead.
The one thing that is clear is that one of these teams will be all over the headlines on Thursday and it won't be the team that wins. Either the drama at City will be magnified or the Reds' struggles will continue and Dalglish will really feel the heat. This one isn't pretty, but it's got plenty to talk about. Maybe we'll even be lucky enough to get something on the pitch to talk about.
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, January 25, 2:45 p.m. ET, 7:45 p.m. local
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (USA), Sky Sports 1 (UK)