Carling Cup final: Liverpool win could inspire further success

By Mark LawrensonBBC pundit and three-time League Cup winner with Liverpool
Friday Focus - Carling Cup final preview

For Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, beating Cardiff City in Sunday's Carling Cup final would be absolutely massive.

People might say it is only the Carling Cup, but it is still a trophy. It would be the Reds' first for six years, and Dalglish's first since he returned as manager at the start of 2011.

Dalglish knows it would act as a launchpad.

Dalglish on Carling Cup

It worked for Manchester United at the start of the 1990s when they won the FA Cup and League Cup within a couple of years. And it worked for Liverpool in 2001 too.

They had to scrap to beat Birmingham City on penalties in the League Cup final that year in a game they could easily have lost, and they ended up winning two more trophies that season - the FA Cup and Uefa Cup - and qualifying for the Champions League for the first time.

As players, you have a little taste of success and you think "whoa, how good is this?!"

Liverpool are also in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they have a home tie against Stoke City. If they beat Cardiff at the weekend, they will be thinking "right, come on - we can go again".

The other leg of the "treble" for Liverpool this season would be finishing fourth in the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League, but I don't see that happening.

They are just a bit short of that right now, mainly because of their home form, particularly against teams below them in the table. They may be unbeaten but they have drawn eight league games at Anfield.

I have seen quite a few of their home fixtures and ostensibly they are a counter-attacking team and, at Anfield, sides have worked that out.

To be more complete, they need to get more men forward at key times. Craig Bellamy will do that when he is in the team, even from wide areas.

That's one of the reasons I would play Bellamy against Cardiff. Not only does he know them well because he played for them last season, but he also gives you blistering pace that will hurt the Welsh side, even if they try to pack the midfield and defend deep.

But Bellamy is not certain to start and, in fact, one of the big positives for Dalglish is that, since the summer, there has been real competition for places in his side.

I would say that, on Sunday, there will probably be four or five positions up for grabs.

I think the goalkeeper and the back four pick themselves, as does Steven Gerrard, and I would argue that you have to play Luis Suarez because he is such a good player. Then you discuss the rest.

Savage Says - Carling Cup final

Like I say, for me, Bellamy has to play, but Dalglish has to decide where to utilise him - maybe on the left, but that is where Stewart Downing had one of his better games of the season last week against Brighton.

Downing is among a group of players, including Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, who are not sure whether they will feature.

But, whoever Dalglish does pick, they have to get into the Cardiff penalty area. Liverpool cannot afford to take their Anfield problems with them to Wembley.

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