Cardiff City will lift the Carling Cup for the first time in the Club's history - if they can beat Liverpool at Wembley this Sunday. Alex Bywater has the preview.
Liverpool team news: Former Bluebird Craig Bellamy has been one of Liverpool's fitness doubts in the run-up to the game, but the Welshman has been passed fit to take part in the Wembley showdown. The forward suffered a back spasm in their Premier League clash with Manchester United recently but is set to be a part of Kenny Dalglish's plans. Elsewhere, the Reds have a full squad to choose from with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez expected to start up front and both Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina also expected to start. The Bluebirds are expected to face what would arguably be Liverpool's strongest XI.
Liverpool's season so far: After significant investment over the summer, Liverpool's current league position is perhaps a little disappointing. Currently sitting in seventh place, the Reds are within touching distance of the Champions League places but it is their home form that has hindered them so far this season.
After splashing out more than £100 million on new players since last January, Dalglish has received substantial support from owner John W Henry to invest in his squad. The signings of players such as Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have all been questioned by sections of the press, but the fact remains that Dalglish possesses a squad of undoubted talent.
After six years without a trophy, the cup competitions represent Liverpool's best bet of ending that drought. As well as reaching the League Cup final, Liverpool have also reached the latter stages of the FA Cup, but remain as far away as ever from Premier League success. Regardless, Liverpool will pose a huge threat to Malky Mackay's Bluebirds and possess a wealth of attacking options. Suarez is an undoubted talent and alongside Carroll and former Bluebird Bellamy, poses the main threat to Cardiff's defence. There is world-class talent throughout the side and in captain Steven Gerrard they have one of the most inspirational players of a generation. It will be a tough contest and the Bluebirds will have to be at their best to take the trophy home to South Wales.
Liverpool's road to the final: The Reds have had a tough road to Wembley and fully deserve their place in the final on the back of wins against Premier League sides Stoke City, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Liverpool started their Carling Cup run away to Exeter City in round two and progressed comfortably with a 3-1 win. Luis Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll were all on the score sheet in a strong looking side. Brighton and Hove Albion were then dispatched 2-1 at the Amex Stadium, Dirk Kuyt scoring the winner before the Merseysiders took on three successive top-flight sides. Suarez's double sent Stoke City crashing out at the Britannia Stadium and set up a mouthwatering round five clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The curse of Kenny Dalglish again gave Chelsea the blues as Liverpool progressed to the semi-finals. Two quick second-half goals from Maxi and Martin Kelly sent the Londoners out despite Carroll missing a penalty.
Onto the semi-final, Steven Gerrard's penalty at the Etihad Stadium gave Liverpool a decisive advantage from their first leg with Manchester City; the side's 2-2 draw back at Anfield was enough to take the Reds to the final. Roberto Mancini's side twice took the lead on Merseyside to put the outcome in doubt, but another Gerrard penalty and a Craig Bellamy goal set up a final clash with the Bluebirds.
Last meeting: Liverpool 2-1 Cardiff City: Liverpool ended the Bluebirds' 2007/08 Carling Cup hopes with a 2-1 victory at Anfield. Steven Gerrard again proved to be the red's match winner, his sixty-sixth minute strike sending Rafa Benitez's side into the next round.
City striker Robbie Fowler was afforded a brilliant reception on his return to Anfield and it was he who had the first chance. After being fouled on the edge of the box, Fowler's free-kick looked destined for the top corner before it was clawed away by Charles Itandje. Despite this early encouragement, it was the home side who had the best of the chances, Ryan Babel firing over and Peter Crouch putting a shot wide. Michael Oakes then comfortably saved from Fabio Aurelio while Lucas Leiva also went close. For City, Paul Parry's header was the nearest they came to breaking the deadlock but they managed to hold out until half-time.
Sadly for the travelling Cardiff fans, they were not level for long as Liverpool took the lead shortly after the break through Nabil El Zhar. It was the Moroccan's first goal for the club and a good one at that, his effort too good for Oakes in the Cardiff goal. City failed to let their heads drop though and they were soon level. Parry's free-kick found Captain Darren Purse who headed in to level the score. Gerrard though restored Liverpool's lead just a minute later, exchanging passes with Yossi Benayoun and finishing from fifteen yards. Fowler and Parry went close to sending the tie into extra-time and while Liverpool had further chances to extend their lead, they had to settle for the 2-1 win.
Teams from last meeting at Anfield on October 31, 2007:
Bluebirds: Oakes, McNaughton (Gunter 84), Purse, Johnson, Capaldi, Ledley, Rae, McPhail (Whittingham 89), Parry, Fowler, Hasselbaink (Thompson 75). Subs not used: Magennis, Loovens.
Liverpool: Itandje, Arbeloa, Hobbs, Carragher, Aurelio, El Zhar (Kewell 71), Lucas (Mascherano 87), Gerrard, Leto (Benayoun 63), Crouch, Babel. Subs not used: Martin, Riise.