Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, Carling Cup Final: Liverpool Looks To End Six-Year Trophy Drought

Craig Bellamy of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Carling Cup Semi Final Second Leg match between Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool play Cardiff City in the Carling Cup Final on February 26, 2012. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Unfancied Cardiff City take on Liverpool in the 2012 Carling Cup final. Will we see another upset, or will the Reds prove too much for their Championship opponents?

It's Carling Cup final time again. While it's not a competition that means a whole lot to the Premier League elite, to the rest of the English football pyramid it's a rather big deal. Two teams that would really like to win the whole thing in Cardiff City and Liverpool square off at Wembley on Sunday, and while it might look as though Cardiff are completely overmatched here, we don't need to go very far back to find an unfancied team upsetting one of the old top four.

Cardiff have had a fairly easy ride to Wembley, facing just one Premier League team in Blackburn, and while their focus is rightly on winning promotion to the top flight this season, they'd be delighted to add a major trophy to their 1927 FA Cup triumph.

Liverpool, on the other hand, will be looking to show their progress under Kenny Dalglish as well as to make up for their 2005 Carling Cup appearance, where an own goal in extra time from captain Steven Gerrard handed Chelsea a 3-2 win and Jose Mourinho his first English trophy. The Reds haven't won anything since the FA Cup in 2006 (although that 2005 Champions League win is still looking rather shiny), and will be expecting to end their mini-drought on Sunday.

Team News

Cardiff

Cardiff have some significant injury concerns. While nobody's been ruled out as of yet, centre back and captain Mark Hudson has an ankle injury and might not make it out onto the pitch. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton has similar concerns. Stephen McPhail, suffering from Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, is also a doubt.

Liverpool

Liverpool don't have many injury worries save the hammer blow they suffered when Lucas Leiva ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in November. The Brazilian midfielder is, of course, out for the remainder of the season and will play no part here. Daniel Agger's a minor concern, although the centre back is expected to recover from a minor back problem in time to face the Bluebirds.

How They Got Here

Cardiff

Cardiff backed into the final after struggling to get past Crystal Palace in the semifinals. Despite being comfortably the better team, the Bluebirds lost the first leg 1-0 and only scored one goal against their ten-man opponents in the reverse fixture, eventually winning a penalty shootout thanks to two excellent saves by Tom Heaton. That wasn't the only shootout Cardiff have had to navigate in the tournament to date, however — they beat Leicester City 2-2 (7-6) in the third round.

Thanks to a very favourable draw, Cardiff have only faced one Premier League team, and that was Blackburn Rovers at their very worst (whom they dispatched pretty easily). They've yet to face anything even close to the challenge that Liverpool will present.

Liverpool

Nobody expected this to be Liverpool's tournament. Two months ago, when Dalglish's side were drawn against Manchester City in the semifinals, you'd have been hard pressed to find anyone confident that Liverpool would make it to Wembley on Saturday. But they did, thanks to a phenomenal performance at Etihad Stadium and then a hard-fought draw at Anfield, and now they'll be looking forward to a match where they look like odds-on favorites to lift the Carling Cup.

City aren't the only tough opponents Liverpool have successfully navigated past this season. A quarterfinal win against a young Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge as well as victory against Stoke City at the Britannia shows that the Reds' place in the final is no fluke — they've truly earned their place.

Projected Lineups

Cardiff City are expected to line up in a fairly defensive 4-5-1 designed to be difficult to break down and to maximize what possessions they do have. Liverpool, meanwhile, will look to a resurgent(ish) Andy Carroll to lead the line with Luis Suarez playing right behind him. Cardiff old boy Craig Bellamy is expected to start over Stewart Downing on the left, with workhorse Dirk Kuyt on the opposite flank. Dalglish will be looking to kill the match off as quickly as possible to ensure that we don't get a repeat of Birmingham's upset against Arsenal last year.

Cardiff City (4-5-1): Tom Heaton; Andrew Taylor, Anthony Gerrard, Ben Turner, Kevin McNaughton; Craig Conway, Stephen McPhail, Peter Whittingham, Aron Gunnarsson, Don Cowie; Kenny Miller.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Pepe Reina; Luis Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Craig Bellamy, Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Dirk Kuyt; Luis Suarez; Andy Carroll.

Schedule

Game Date/Time: Sunday, February 26th, 4:00 PM GMT (11:00 AM EST).

Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, England.

TV: BBC One (UK), FOX Soccer Channel (USA), Sportsnet World (Canada)

For more on the Reds, head over to Anfield Asylum and The Offside Liverpool.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.