The stage is set at Wembley Stadium for the 2012 Carling Cup Final on Sunday, in which Championship club Cardiff City and English Premier League power Liverpool will battle on the pitch for the Football League Cup.
The Bluebirds were dealt a relatively favorable hand on the way to London, needing to overcome but one Premiership side (Blackburn Rovers) in pursuit of their first League Cup.
The Reds, meanwhile, had to outlast the likes of Stoke City, Chelsea and Manchester City on the path to their eighth Carling Cup and what may turn out to be their first new piece of hardware of any kind since 2006.
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
When: Sunday, February 26th at 11:00 a.m. EST
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel, BBC One
Live Stream: FoxSoccer.tv, BBC Online
Player to Watch for Cardiff: Peter Whittingham
Peter Whittingham is the engine that makes Cardiff's attack go.
The 27-year-old English midfielder leads the Bluebirds in goals (10) and assists (12) in 38 matches between the Carling Cup and the Championship.
This will mark Whittingham's third career appearance against Liverpool, though Sunday's match will be far and away the most important such match of his career.
Player to Watch for Liverpool: Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez has been nothing if not a lightning rod of controversy this season.
His ongoing racial row with Manchester United's Patrice Evra has brought shame and humiliation upon one of England's proudest and most historic clubs.
Leading Liverpool to a win at Wembley would go a long way toward restoring Luisito's honor, respect and credibility with the Reds, who last lifted the League Cup in 2003.
Key Matchup: Suarez vs. Cardiff's Back Line
There's little reason to worry about Liverpool's defence—it's been one of the stingiest in England all season.
The Reds' concerns, rather, have laid with their attack, which has struggled to score with and without Luis Suarez.
Still, Kenny Dalglish will need Luisito, whose he has backed through thick and thin, to reward his unwavering faith with some creativity against Cardiff's back line.
What They're Saying
Sunday's match will be particularly meaningful for Craig Bellamy. The Liverpool striker is a Cardiff native and played for the Bluebirds last season while on loan from Manchester City.
Bellamy will be fit to play at Wembley after suffering from back spasms, though don't expect him to celebrate in excess should he score against Cardiff:
"I certainly won't celebrate. I tried not to against Man City [another former club; in the semi-final], I tried to hold myself back. Really I didn't celebrate that much but in the occasion and the moment you get a little bit carried away. I have no aspirations of celebrating. But I have to be on the pitch first and foremost before I think about scoring.
"It will be a strange situation as it's the first time I've ever played against them. It's not something I've looked forward to doing, to be honest. My father's a big Cardiff fan and it's the club I used to go to when I was very young. I set one ambition in my life to play for them and I was able to do that."
Steven Gerrard is just as excited for the match as Bellamy, if not more so.
The long-time Liverpool midfielder shared his feelings with the Liverpool Echo about Sunday's importance as an opportunity for the Reds to turn over a new leaf after six years without a trophy:
"I'm hoping this is just the beginning for us. It would be stupid to win the Carling Cup and then rest on our laurels," the midfielder said. "This is an important cup for us but there are other big prizes we want to strive for.
"I honestly believe winning this cup will be the catalyst for a successful period for the club. It will certainly give us the belief and confidence to deliver more."
Prediction: Liverpool 1, Cardiff 0
It will be a monumental struggle for Liverpool to put the ball in the net, though once they do, they'll clamp down on Cardiff to claim the Carling Cup as their own.
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