Cardiff City will be hoping to overturn a 1-0 deficit in tonight’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg with Crystal Palace. Betfair currently has Cardiff as favourites to win the all-Championship affair and book their place in the final at Wembley; visit Betfair for Carling Cup, Premier League, FA Cup and Euro 2012 Betting.
The Managers: -
Anxious for a win, manager Malky Mackay will be looking to remove the bridesmaids label that has become synonymous with Cardiff City in recent years – after defeats in the 2008 FA Cup Final against Portsmouth and the 2010 Championship play-off final against Blackpool, both at Wembley.
His opposite number Dougie Freedman will be no less anxious, despite his Palace side winning the first leg 1-0 at Selhurst Park a fortnight ago thanks to centre-back Anthony Gardner’s header. A clean-sheet is all The Eagles will need to guarantee themselves a place in a major final for the first time in more than 20 years.
The managers have been locked in a war of words recently, with Freedman stating that the expectations at Cardiff are a lot higher than they are at Palace. Mackay responded by saying that Freedman’s comments had helped motivate his team for the upcoming game, but would rather look after his own club than concentrate on talking about the opposition in the media.
Neither manager may have reached a major cup final as a player in England, but the victor will be standing on the Wembley touchline opposite either Kenny Dalglish or Roberto Mancini in the Carling Cup Final.
The Teams: -
Cardiff reached this stage of the competition after wins against Oxford United, Leicester City, Burnley and Premier League club Blackburn Rovers.
Looking at The Bluebirds’ home form this season it is hardly surprising that they are more-fancied outfit, having picked up 13 wins out of 17 home games – including a 2-0 win against this evening’s opponents back in November thanks to goals from Kenny Miller and Peter Whittingham.
Crystal Palace dispatched have had the more difficult road to the semi-finals, knocking out Premier League side Wigan Athletic, Championship promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough and Southampton, and reigning top-flight champions Manchester United.
Palace have been notoriously difficult to breakdown this season and have conceded just three goals in their six League Cup matches. Miller’s goal in the November meeting also ended up a club-record spell of 619 minutes without conceding a goal, demonstrating the resilience of The Eagles’ defence.
Team News: -
Cardiff are at virtually full-strength for tonight’s fixture, with just doubts over defender Kevin McNaughton (calf) and forward Rudy Gestede (ankle). Goalkeeper Tom Heaton has started the majority of The Bluebirds’ League cup fixtures this season, and may be recalled in place of first-choice stopper David Marshall.
After making nine changes at Blackpool, Crystal Palace will welcome back a host of regular first-team players for tonight’s match including goalkeeper Julian Speroni, captain Paddy McCarthy, defenders Anthony Gardner and Nathaniel Clyne, midfielders Mile Jedinak, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Darren Ambrose and Wilfried Zaha and strikers Glenn Murray and Chris Martin. In a further boost for the Eagles, Sean Scannell returns from suspension whilst Dean Moxey and Alex Marrow have both recovered from injuries.
Key Players: -
Cardiff – Top-scorer Kenny Miller has been in good form for the Bluebirds this season, notching 10 goals in all competitions.
Crystal Palace – Teenage winger Wilifried Zaha produced a sensational display in the 2-1 at Old Trafford; Zaha’s pace and passing ability could trouble the Cardiff defence.
This is a very tight game to call, and I can actually see this one ending 1-1, sending Crystal Palace through to final.