As we all know, it’s been a while since we last saw Liverpool compete in a major cup final and it’s been even longer since the reds contested a match at Wembley Stadium. The reds are being billed as clear favourites but will have to do a lot more than just turn up if they want to get their hands on the first major trophy of the season.
One of the reasons why I’m so excited for Sunday is because of the effect it could have on the rest of the season for Liverpool. Firstly, it would of course be great to see the reds win a trophy after six seasons without one. Winning a cup competition would be a huge boost for the entire squad and would be just reward for certain players who have yet to win silverware for us, such as Dirk Kuyt.
Another positive to come from winning the league cup would be European qualification. Of course, qualifying for the Europa League was never one of our main targets this season but bearing in mind that Liverpool haven’t had any European football since last season, it would at least be good to be back in an intercontinental competition.
As much as people make the Europa League out to be a terrible competition, Liverpool did try to qualify for it last season and failed, while the calibre of teams left in the competition this year has no doubt raised the profile of the much criticised tournament. Qualification for the Europa League gives Liverpool a safety net, which will come in handy as the reds push for Champions League qualification for the remainder of the campaign.
The reds are also looking good for the FA cup so far, and I believe that their run has been helped by the confidence instilled by defeating some incredibly tough opponents on the road to the Carling Cup final. For some senior players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, winning the league cup would be a nice reminder of what they’ve already experienced on a few occasions, while for players like Luis Suarez, winning the cup would present a taste of medals for the first time in the red shirt.
I expect the usual big performers like Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina to be highly influential on Sunday but I’m also eager to see which of the current crop is ready to make the step up and prove themselves in what is a huge game for Liverpool. In comparison to last season, it has to be said that things are looking a bit more positive. 2001 will always be remembered as a highly successful year for Liverpool, and as Gerard Houllier stated earlier this week, the event that triggered the treble success was finishing as winners of the league cup.
As for this year, I would expect that a Carling Cup win could spur the reds on in the race for fourth place as well as giving us the confidence to reach the FA cup final. For now I don’t want to look any further than Sunday, where we will have to face a Cardiff team capable of causing a major upset. Sunday’s game is a big one no doubt, but for Liverpool it is crucial simply because it represents a chance to save their season as well as kick start a charge up the league table to where they truly belong.