In a few hours time we’ll know which Championship side will be expected to provide cannon fodder for either Manchester City or Liverpool in the Carling Cup final.
Although Crystal Palace are slight favourites to qualify for the final, Cardiff are favourites to win tonight. Which might sound slightly barmy until you realise that the Eagles have only lost three of their last ten trips to the Welsh capital in all competitions and that Cardiff really need to win by two goals to have a chance of winning the tie within 90 minutes – something that the hosts are very capable of doing. The Bluebirds have only lost twice at home this season and so it looks as if it could be a tight game.
Palace lost at Blackpool on Saturday but Dougie Freedman did a fantastic job of emulating the managers in the Premier League by naming a team that included precisely none of the team that played in the first leg of the semi final. In contrast, Cardiff’s Malky McKay chose eight of the 11 players who lost at Crystal Palace in his starting eleven for the game against Portsmouth: it’ll be interesting to see which philosophy pays off later on.
With the weekend’s games not finishing until last night, it was always going to be down to the game between Southampton and Leicester to decide who was going to be top of the table going into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Unfortunately for the former leaders, Leicester ended their 40 year winless streak at Southampton – which meant that West Ham maintained their lead at the top of the table thanks to their win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon.
On the face it, Middlesbrough’s 3-1 defeat at Coventry was a shock, but Boro managed to pull of a reasonable impression of Millwall’s thrashing by Birmingham the week before – Kevin Thomson and Julio Arca were both sent off. Boro’s only win this year came against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup and they’re now five points adrift of the automatic promotion places.
Coventry’s win compacted the bottom three rather than made any impact on the teams above them: I’ve already mentioned Forest’s defeat at West Ham and Doncaster lost at Bristol City, results which leave the bottom three four points adrift from safety.
I’ll be back on Friday with a look at the two league games taking place this weekend as well as the fourth round ties in the FA Cup – the pick of which is probably Watford v Spurs on Friday evening – but I’ll post an update as soon as tonight’s game has finished.
Update: despite having scored both goals in the two ties, Anthony Gardner won’t be playing in the Carling Cup final. Cardiff City won on penalties and will play at Wembley.