Wembley glory awaits Reds or Blues
The stage is set for the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea
With yet another trip to Wembley on Saturday and the opportunity to pick up more silverware, Kop supremo Kenny Dalglish is focused on adding the FA Cup to February's Carling Cup triumph.
For the first time ever Liverpool fans will also be able to watch live FA Cup final action from the Kop. Anfield will make the big screen available as the backing of the 12 man gets bigger and stronger.
Dalglish has rotated his squad and is expecting to be able to cherry pick his starting XI from almost a full squad of players. The notable absence will be the driving force of Lucas, who was ruled out for the season last November.
Despite gifting Fulham their first ever win at Anfield last Tuesday, Liverpool will head to the capital in confident mood. The Reds chief, however, has singled out Roberto di Matteo’s turnaround at Stamford Bridge with a great deal of respect.
Speaking at his Anfield press conference this week, Dalglish said: "I wouldn't know if it's confidence or not, but it's certainly not arrogance. We've got a huge deal of respect for Chelsea Football Club and what they've done.
"Chelsea have had a fantastic achievement in getting to the Champions League final, especially with the two performances they put in against Barcelona.
"They were two really good performances and two fantastic results to get themselves through.”
The game will depict the tale of two strikers. Just over a year ago both were treated as national treasures and recognised as two of the games most accomplished marksmen.
Despite the possibility of either club lifting two trophies this season, the personal contribution from both Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll has attracted much criticism from some fans, pundits and owners, who expect instant dividends.
Both strikers recently scored cup semi final winners and Saturday’s showpiece final will offer a great arena for them to remind everybody that they are worth their burgeoning price tags. Both Torres and Carroll have also been dropped by their international teams.
Torres has provided sparks of magic recently, whilst Carroll will need immense performances to push himself to the forefront of Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad list.
Liverpool’s appearance at Wembley is represents a third FA Cup final for both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
Gerrard addressed a cup final conference at Anfield: "It'd be a successful season and that's what this club is all about - winning big trophies. The FA Cup certainly comes under that.
"It's what we play the game for – that's what we love. Some of the biggest experiences we've had over the years have been winning cups – the European Cup, the FA Cup, the Carling Cup.
"They're the nights when you're successful that you look back upon with fond memories.
"Winning big trophies breeds a lot of confidence and belief. It gives you that taste of success and makes you want more – and that's what we want on Saturday."
Both the club stalwarts are making their tenth major final appearances for the Reds. Carragher is unfazed by the illustrious history of his predecessors and the expectation to win.
"You just go out and play. You play for Liverpool. We're aware of the past but you don't think about that leading up to the game," he said.
"I don't think it's been in anyone's thoughts. We've got a great history, we know that, and we want to keep that going.
"I don't think it's an added pressure – certainly not for me."
Liverpool’s Premier League form may have been inconsistent but in the cups they have taken the scalps of both the Manchester teams, along with neighbours Everton. Chelsea were beaten by a Glen Johnson winner at the Bridge in 2011 and days later his full back replacement Martin Kelly scored the winner in the Carling Cup quarter-final at the same venue.
But Dalglish does not believe his team have an advantage over Chelsea because of the two back to back wins.
"I don't think it will help or hinder us," explained the Liverpool boss. "Those games are gone and we got two positive results.”
Dalglish was asked if two domestic trophies represent a successful season: "We'll see what happens. We're in the Cup final – there's no guarantee we're going to win, but there is a guarantee we're going to give everything we've got to try and win.
"The season will be assessed when it's finished, not part way through it."
Chelsea have enjoyed a resurgence since Di Matteo was handed temporary control, beating Barcelona in that epic Champions League semi final at the Nou Camp and climbing up the Premier League. Just like Liverpool, the Blues go into the final after suffering a home loss thanks to two goal of the season contenders from Papiss Cisse.
Chelsea though have bigger fish to fry, and one can forgive Di Matteo having one eye firmly on the Champions League final in Munich.
Since the Newcastle defeat this has become more of a priority, especially if the Blues are to cement Champions League football at Stamford Bridge for 2012/13.