The second Carling Cup 2011/12 Semi-Final First Leg takes place on the evening of Wednesday 11th January 2012, when Manchester City host Liverpool for an all-Premier League clash which has been eagerly anticipated since the draw was made last year.
The match, which kicks off at City’s Etihad Stadium at 19:45 GMT this evening, will go some way to deciding who is the most likely to progress to a Wembley Final with either Crystal Palace or Cardiff City – who played the first leg of their Semi-Final last night.
On League form, it would appear to be City who set down the best marker of these two sides: the Sky Blues currently lead the Premier League by three points from rivals Manchester United, though Liverpool have shown gradual improvement from last season with more frequent end product this term seeing them placed in a strong 6th place, in with more than an outside chance of European places.
Liverpool, however, will be without their most potent threat this season, Luis Suarez, who is currently serving an eight match ban from all football for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
City will also be without an important player: captain Vincent Kompany is serving a four match ban following his red card against Manchester United in last week’s FA Cup Third Round clash. They also may lose the important duo Mario Balotelli and David Silva, who have been in fantastic form this term, to injury. Powerful forward Edin Džeko is another over whom there are fitness concerns.
As a result, despite having beaten Liverpool 3-0 in their recent Premier League clash, things may not go all Man City’s way tonight.
Liverpool had by far the easier time in the FA Cup, on Friday, when they faced Oldham Athletic. They will be able to restore Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel to the starting line-up after the four were rested for Friday night’s match: their squad is likely to be all the fresher tonight as a result.
Liverpool will need to be fresh, however, for City can be ruthless at home. With the returning Gareth Barry set to slot into an already gelling midfield, Liverpool can expect to see City creating chance after chance. If there is hope for the Reds it is that Man City do not perhaps bolt the back door as securely as they might – as Manchester United were able to expose in scoring three in the Etihad on the weekend – and Liverpool, if Andy Carroll can fire, might well have the fire-power to expose any gaps. Kompany’s absence is important here. Liverpool must, it is felt, get an away goal to take back to Anfield if they have ambitions of progressing.
If City can shut out Liverpool tonight, they have an excellent away record and an embarrassment of riches going forwards that suggests they will be able to find at least one away goal of their own in Liverpool: the task, therefore, for Kenny Dalglish’s men, is to get on the score-sheet tonight.
With both sides looking like lining up better in attack than defence, this has all the hallmarks of an entertaining semi-final, which could see a good deal of goals and goal-mouth incident over the 180 minutes of football. Two strong goalkeepers will no doubt come into play in either fixture.
A great two-legged tie for neutrals and the partisan alike is predicted.
Who will progress is anyone’s guess.
The second leg takes place at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium on Wedensday 25th January 2012.