A trip to Wembley and Liverpool’s first cup final in nearly five years are on the line on Wednesday, with Manchester City heading to Anfield for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final. Liverpool have a 1-0 advantage from the first leg after a Steven Gerrard penalty capped a dominant opening spell for Kenny Dalglish’s squad, but there’s little illusion that they’ll be able to coast into the final, with City more than capable of turning the tie over.
Thankfully there’s not a whole lot of time left to rehash the weekend’s failings, with any prolonged misery interrupted by a match that carries with it stakes, at least from a practical standpoint, that are higher than anything the club’s been involved in since the Europa League tie with Atletico Madrid just under two years ago. So sure, it’s the League Cup, but it’s also a match with some gravity to it at a time the club find themselves in desperate need of something to be positive about.
That it comes against the current league leaders adds to the challenge, particularly when considering that, after a frustrating finish to the match two weeks ago, they’ll be more than ready to press Liverpool relentlessly. They’ve rebounded nicely from the defeat in the first leg, getting past a plucky Wigan side 1-0 before beating Spurs 3-2 on a Mario Balotelli penalty in the final minutes of injury time on Sunday.
As Noel mentioned earlier, however, they’re likely to be without the match-winner on Wednesday, as the FA decided to pursue charges against him for Cobra Kai’ing Scott Parker’s face. Quotes from assistant David Platt indicate the club won’t dispute the retroactive red, which means the ban starts immediately. But as was the case in the first leg, there’s no lack of quality in the rest of the available personnel, even if they’re still missing the Toure brothers to the Africa Cup of Nations and Vincent Kompany in the last of his four-match ban. That leaves their defense as the main question mark, as Stefan Savic had a torrid time in the first leg and looks in line for another appearance on Wednesday.