Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Premier League: 2011/12 End of season review

It has been quite a season in the Premier League this year. We have seen some astonishing games and some quite brilliant goals. After an extroadinary last day of the season, it was the blue side of Manchester that took the title, and the bragging rights this year, over rivals Manchester United. The race for the final two Champions League places was another highlight of the season with four teams in contention for it over the final third of the season. The relegation battle was also taken to the final day of the season, with QPR and Bolton battling it out to avoid the drop. It was Bolton though, that followed Blackburn Rovers and Wolves to the Championship where they will play their football next year.

In the domestic competitions, Manchester United earned the first trophy of the season, beating rivals Manchester City 3-2 in the Community Shield at Wembley. Coming from two goals down, United winger Nani scored a late winner to claim victory and the first piece of silverware of the season. Despite a very poor season, Liverpool claimed the Carling Cup and a first trophy in six years. Victory came though after opponents Cardiff City forced a penalty shoot out after it had looked like Dirk Kuyt's goal would be good enough for the win. Liverpool were again present at Wembley after making it to the FA Cup final where they faced Chelsea who came out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Didier Drogba and Ramires.

Focus back on the Premier League, the fight for Champions League place was one of the hottest contests for some time. Having finished the season poorly, Tottenham Hotspur claimed the fourth and final spot only for it to be taken away from them having seen Chelsea win the competition weeks later. Newcastle will have felt unlucky to have missed out on a Champions League place after having an excellent season which ended in a very respectable fifth place. Manager Alan Pardew was given manager of the season, and with Senegalese strikers Demba Ba and Papa Cisse producing the goods upfront, Newcastle were extremely consistent all year. Arsenal finished third having started the season poorly. Talisman Robin Van Persie guided the Gunners to a Champions League place finishing the season with a brilliant 30 league goals.

As always the relegation fight was as exciting as it ever is. Wigan Athletic were odds on to take the drop but after escaping it last season, they made a repeat performance after going on an excellent run in the second half of the season to keep them up. Victories on the road against Arsenal and Liverpool, and a home win against Man United enabled Roberto Martinez's club the opportunity for Premier League football next season. Despite drawing at Anfield and beating Man United at Old Trafford, Blackburn Rovers were relegated alongside Wolves and Bolton Wanderers. Bolton were still within a shout of staying up on the final day of the season, but a draw away at Stoke wasn't enough for Owen Coyle's side to stay up. Wanderers were fighting QPR on the final day for the final place and although Rangers lost to Manchester City, they remain in the Premier League for next season. Southampton, Reading and West Ham replace the relegated sides next season after being promoted from the Championship.

The title race was also as exciting this season with the Manchester clubs battling it out against each other for the top prize. It looked early on that City would be taking the trophy for the first time in 44 years, but as they always do, rivals United caught up and were eight points clear going into the final games of the season. But a small dip in results, and a derby defeat at the Etihad, saw City clinch title on the last day of the season. United's 1-0 away win at Sunderland and with City 2-1 down to QPR going into the final minutes, it looked like United would be taking their 20th title. But two late goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero saw the blue side of Manchester snatch the trophy away from their city rivals and end a phenomenal season in the Barclay's Premier League.

Friday, 25 May 2012

League Two play off final preview: Cheltenham Town v Crewe Alexandra

Sunday's League Two play off final will be the last game of the 2011/12 football league season. Having seen West Ham clinch the first victory in the Championship play off final last week, one team from League Two has the chance to achieve similar success. Cheltenham Town or Crewe face each other at Wembley and the winner will be playing in League One next season. Both teams finished below their semi final opponents in the league this year with Crewe beating Southend and Cheltenham beating Torquay in their respective games.

Crewe Alexandra:
Crewe go into the final on Sunday appearing in their sixth play off campaign. The last time they were successful in the play off's came back in 1997 where they beat Brentford to reach the second tier of English football. Having finished in the final place of the play off's, Crewe overcame semi final opponents Southend winning 3-2 on aggregate. The Staffordshire club are now 18 games unbeaten in the league, having not lost a league game since playing Southend on 18th February. Crewe will go into the game full of confidence having beaten their opponents Cheltenham Town twice this season, winning 1-0 on both occasions. Youngster Nick Powell will be the key figure for Alex on Sunday, having scored 15 goals in all competitions this year. The highly rated 18 year old is set to sign for giants Manchester United next season after a impressing this year in League Two.

Cheltenham Town:
Going into their third play off final, Cheltenham Town are unbeaten in their play off history. Having gained promotion via them in 2001/02 and 2005/06, they will be going into Sunday's final wanting to achieve similar success. Town overcame Torquay United in the play off semi finals beating them 4-1 on aggregate. Current boss Mark Yates was a play off winner for the club back in 2002 where they beat Rushden and Diamonds 3-1 at the Millennium Stadium. Yates guided the club to a sixth place finish, five points above opponents Crewe. Winger Jermaine McGlashan is the man to watch for Town having impressed in the semi finals scoring in both ties. 

Prediction: Crewe 2-1 Cheltenham Town

Thursday, 24 May 2012

League One play off final preview: Huddersfield Town v Sheffield United

As everyone starts to concentrate on the upcoming European Championships, there are still a couple of games that will decide which teams will be playing in both League One or League Two next season. Both play off finals take place this weekend at Wembley. First up is the League One play off final on Saturday which sees a Yorkshire derby between Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United. Both teams will be desperate to gain the final promotion spot having both had seasons which thoroughly deserve promotion. Huddersfield Town will be eager to gain the final place having missed out last season after being beaten in the final to Peterborough United. On the other hand, Sheffield United looked certain to go up automatically but were narrowly pipped by arch rivals Sheffield Wednesday and will want an immediate return to the Championship following last seasons relegation.

Huddersfield Town:
This will be the third time Huddersfield Town will be in a play off final after making it in 2004 and 2011. The first time they reached a play off final was when they played Mansfield Town in the old Division Three play off final winning 4-1 on penalties. As already mentioned their most recent appearance came against Peterborough United last season where they were beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford in the League One play off final. Town progressed to the final this year after overcoming MK Dons over the two legs winning 3-2 on aggregate. Striker Jordan Rhodes scored twice over the legs making it an incredible 40 goals in all competitions this year. The forward has been a key figure in the club's charge for promotion this year scoring a number of hat tricks including an impressive four goals in the 4-4 draw away at Sheffield Wednesday. Huddersfield will fancy their chances on Saturday against opponents Sheffield United after beating them 3-0 at Bramall Lane earlier on in the season. Boss Simon Grayson has excellent history in the play off's having managed former clubs Blackpool and Leeds United to promotion while in charge.

Sheffield United:
Relegated from the Championship last season, Sheffield United will be keen to make an immediate return. Having narrowly missed out to on an automatic spot to arch rivals Sheffield Wednesday, United have good enough reason for wanting promotion to the Championship. Their last appearance in the play off's came in 2003 where they were beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 in the old Division One play off final at Millennium Stadium. Since, the Blades have had appearances in the Premier League and the Championship before being relegated last season to League One. United could feel lucky to be playing at Wembley on Saturday after struggling to get past their semi final opponents Stevenage. The Blades came out 1-0 winners on aggregate after a last minute winner in the second leg from forward Chris Porter. Goals have not been hard to come for United this season having had striker Ched Evans in great form notching 35 goals in all competitions. But after being found guilty of rape, Evans was sent to prison leaving United boss Danny Wilson with problems up front. If selected it could be up to semi final hero, Porter to provide the goods if United are to go back up.

Prediction: Huddersfield Town 2-0 Sheffield United

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

England: Euro 2012 squad announced

After much discussion and many opinions on who would get the call to the England squad, new manager Roy Hodgson finally announced his 23 man squad for the Euros today. The main talking point that arises from the squad is the exclusion of defender Rio Ferdinand who misses out. Other notable exclusions include Man City defender Micah Richards as well as strikers Darren Bent and Peter Crouch who were rumoured to be given the nod.

Goalkeeper John Ruddy and Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the two players included who are uncapped and are inclusions that have been praised amongst both media and fans. Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has been named as captain for the tournament by Hodgson, a welcome choice and a decision many expected. With two warm up games ahead, Hodgson will want to begin noting down a starting eleven for the tournament which will begin for England on the 11th June where they face France in their first group game.

We take a look at the 23 man squad that will represent England at Euro 2012:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Robert Green (West Ham United), John Ruddy (Norwich City)
Norwich shot stopper John Ruddy is the stand out choice by Roy Hodgson, but a selection that has been merited by Ruddy's excellent displays for the Canaries this season. He played every Premier League game bar one for Norwich this year which included two clean sheets. He is joined in the squad by Joe Hart and Rob Green who have both had excellent seasons for their respective clubs. Hart has grown into the number one spot for England and is by far the best English goalkeeper between the sticks at the moment. The Manchester City keeper played in every Premier League game this season in helping them achieve the league title for the first time in 44 years. Second choice keeper Rob Green has bounced back well since his error in the World Cup two years ago and has had guided West Ham to the Championship play off final with an impressive 17 clean sheets. 

Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man Utd), John Terry (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Man City), Leighton Baines (Everton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea)

Only the seven defenders have been included in the squad which includes the absence of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand. The centre back is a surprise omission from the squad which includes Chelsea captain John Terry. The former England captain's inclusion is the reason many thought Ferdinand wasn't but in his press conference, Hodgson explained the decision was purely based on football. Terry is joined by fellow club team mates Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole who were expected to be included. Liverpool right back Glen Johnson has also been selected and is thought to be chosen as England's number one right back. Johnson was thought to be joined by Spurs right back Kyle Walker, but a toe injury meant the defender misses out after having an excellent season for the London club. Instead Hodgson has included flexible defender Phil Jones who was selected ahead of Man City right back Micah Richards. Richards will be disappointed not to be selected after having a good season at the Etihad playing 29 games contributing 5 assists. Everton left back Leighton Baines and Man City defender Joleon Lescott have also been including making up the rest of the defenders selected. 

Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Ashley Young (Man Utd), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Man City), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur)

Arsenal youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been rewarded with a call up to the squad after an impressive season at the Emirates. The 18-year old is the stand out selection in the midfield which also includes Liverpool winger Stewart Downing. Having played 36 games this season at Anfield, Downing ended having not registered a goal or assist. The selection is one that is a surprise considering the poor season the former Villa player has had. He is joined by team mate Steven Gerrard who has been selected as captain for the tournament. Gerrard captained England at their last major tournament two years ago at the World Cup where they fell to the Germans in a controversial quarter final. Despite suffering from an achilles injury, Spurs midfielder Scott Parker has been selected and after having an injection, Parker is expected to be fit for the tournament. Arsenal winger Theo Walcott has been included after a good season with The Gunners. Walcott ended the season with eight goals and eight assists and is no stranger to the England set up having been selected in the 2006 World Cup squad by former boss Sven Goran Eriksson. Ashley Young, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry have all been selected making up the rest of the midfield. 

Strikers: Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Welbeck (Man Utd)

With Wayne Rooney having to miss the first two games through suspension, it will be up to the remaining three strikers to make sure they score the goals. Rooney was sent off in England's last qualifying game in October against Montenegro which ruled him out for the first three games. However this ban was shortened to two games meaning Rooney will be available for the final group game against Ukraine. Club team mate Danny Welbeck has been selected by Hodgson having impressed throughout the season while partnering Rooney up front at United. Welbeck finished the season with nine goals. Liverpool front man Andy Carroll has also been included having finished the season strongly at Anfield. Rumour had it that Stoke forward Peter Crouch may have got the nod, but Carroll's strength and power seemed to be the reason Hodgson is taking the Geordie instead. Jermain Defoe is the final striker chosen in the squad having scored eleven goals this season, the majority from the Spurs bench.

Standby: Jack Butland (B'ham City), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Championship play off final preview: West Ham Utd v Blackpool

Having both been relegated from the top flight last season, both Blackpool and West Ham have the opportunity this weekend to bounce straight back. With one place up for grab, one of the sides will be making a lucrative return to the Premier League leaving the losers enduring another long season in the Championship. Both sides experienced different semi finals with West Ham easing past opponents Cardiff with a convincing 5-0 aggregate scoreline against the Welsh side. Blackpool however secured a final place after battling brilliantly in the second leg to prevent Birmingham City place taking the tie to extra time. The Seasiders came out against the Midlands side winning 3-2 on aggregate. Both clubs will be eager to return to the big time which will make it a very entertaining game.

Ian Holloway took Blackpool to the promise land two years ago after beating Cardiff in the play off final at Wembley. His side gained many fans last year with his sides performances. Unfortunately they were relegated on the last day of the season after being narrowly beaten at Old Trafford by Manchester United. The Seasiders though are back again after just one season in the Championship. Two excellent displays in the semi finals against Birmingham ensured they made it to Wembley again, and even though they go into the tie with West Ham as underdogs,  they will know anything is possible on the day. Wingers Tom Ince and Matt Phillips have really shone for them this year and with the experience of another Phillips, Kevin, they have impressed this season. Loan signing Stephen Dobbie will be making his second appearance for Blackpool in the play off's in three years after he helped gain promotion two years ago and will be looking for a repeat performance.

West Ham United:
Having been tipped for automatic promotion at the start of the season, the Hammers would not have expected to be in this position come the end of the season. Sam Alladyce's side had been around the top of the table for much of the season, but after a terrific run by Reading they were pipped to a place and had to settle for a place in the play off's. Their last appearance in a play off final came in 2005 where they beat Preston 1-0 in a tight encounter at the Millennium Stadium. West Ham have always been renowned to be a Premier League club and a return to the big time is a must. Players such as Rob Green, Kevin Nolan and Carlton Cole are all proven at the top level and will not want another season in the Championship. Striker Ricardo Vaz Te has had an excellent season having moved to the Hammers in the January transfer market from Barnsley. The Portuguese forward has 21 league goals to his name this season, 11 of them coming in his time at Upton Park. Having previously played in the Premier League with Bolton, Vaz Te suffered an injury hit time at the Reebok and will want another chance to show he can prove himself in the top flight.

Prediction: Blackpool 1-2 West Ham Utd

Friday, 11 May 2012

Preview: League Two play off semi finals

We continue with previews of this years Football League play off's by looking at League Two and the semi finals that kick off this weekend. The first semi final kicks off tomorrow where we see Crewe Alexandra take on Southend in a late afternoon kick off at Gresty Road. The second semi final follows on Sunday lunchtime where we see the other semi final take place between Cheltenham and Torquay.

#1 Crewe Alexandra  v Southend Utd
Staffordshire side Crewe Alexandra go into the semi final in excellent form having gone the last sixteen league games unbeaten. This run included seven wins and nine draws which saw them claim seventh spot in the league and the last play off place up for grabs. A draw away at Macclesfield on the final day of the season saw them clinch the place ahead of fellow sides Oxford and Gillingham. Opponents for Alex come in the form of Southend who narrowly missed out on an automatic spot to Crawley on the final day of the season. The Essex club come into the play off's unbeaten in the last five conceding no goals. Paul Sturrocks side are aiming to replicate the side of 2004/05 where a Steve Tilson side saw them promoted from a similar position to that of this season. Strikers Freddy Eastwood and Neil Harris give the side much needed experience with Harris having helped former club Millwall to play off success in 2009. The play off tie is Crewe's sixth attempt at promotion from the play off's with their last successful attempt coming in 1997 where they were promoted to the second tier of English football. 

#2 Cheltenham Town v Torquay
Cheltenham Town League Two Play-Off Final Winners
Having narrowly missed out last season to Stevenage in the play off final, Torquay will want to go one better and achieve promotion to League One this time round. However they will need to buck up their ideas this weekend as they go into the semi final having not won in their previous five league games. This poor run ended their chances of automatic promotion after being in second in April. They come up against Cheltenham who are looking to return to League One after playing in League Two for the past three seasons. The Gloucestershire club are on a good run after achieving back to back victories from their last two games of the season. They will go into the tie with good history in the play off's having gained promotion from them in 2002 and 2006 both to League One. Torquay though came out on top in the league's fixtures between the two this season having beaten Cheltenham at Whaddon Road 1-0 and managing a 2-2 draw when they played at home. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Preview: League One play off semi finals

With the Football League season now over, there are still games to play for clubs fighting it out in the play off's in all three divisions. After seeing the Championship play off's kick off last week, its the turn of the teams in League One on Friday and Saturday. Having failed at the same stage last season, MK Dons will hope for better luck this time after being beaten by winners Peterborough Utd last year. They face Huddersfield Town who were also beaten 3-0 by Peterborough last year in the show piece final at Old Trafford. The other semi sees two teams, who entered the division at different ends last year, fight for a final promotion place. Sheffield United who were relegated from the Championship last year take on Stevenage who were promoted last year via the League Two play off's.

#1 MK Dons v Huddersfield Town
Dons celebrate at the final whistle; Gillingham 1 MK Dons 1
Both MK Dons and Huddersfield will be looking to succeed at the play off's this year after both falling to Peterborough United in last year's League One play off's. After only managing one win in five games before Saturday, Huddersfield's 2-0 home win against Yeovil on the last day of the season will give the team confidence going into the first leg lunchtime clash on Saturday. They travel to MK Dons, who were five games unbeaten before defeat a surprise home defeat to Walsall on Saturday.  Dons and Huddersfield drew both league games between them this year meaning a close encounter will be expected over the two legs. Town boss Simon Grayson has a lot of experience in the play off's having guided former club Blackpool to play off success in 2007 where he saw the Seasiders gain promotion from League One to the Championship. Grayson also guided old club Leeds United to the League One play off's in his first season at |Elland Road but defeat to Millwall in the semi final's ended the clubs chance of promotion that year. MK Dons go into the tie having never won a two legged semi final play off tie after three attempts. Defeat to Shrewsbury Town in 2007 in League Two was followed by defeats in League One in 2008/09 by Scunthorpe and then by Peterborough United last season. 

#2 Stevenage v Sheffield United
After being beaten to the final automatic spot by rivals Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United have the difficult task of the play off's if they are to make an immediate comeback to the Championship. The Blades looked certain to achieve automatic promotion, but after only picking up just two points from the last three games, were pipped to the finish by their arch rivals. They come up against newly promoted Stevenage who have had an excellent season. Promoted via the play off's last season from League Two saw Stevenage achieve back to back promotions after achieving promotion from the Conference the season before. Having changed manager in January this year, Stevenage secured a play off place with a home win against Bury on the final day of the season and also enjoyed a decent cup win taking Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur to a replay in the FA Cup. The clubs will play the first leg on Friday night where Sheffield United look set to be without veteran striker James Beattie who was sent off against Exeter at the weekend. Having already being without top goal scorer Ched Evans, it leaves United struggling for strikers in their bid for promotion. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Preview: Championship play off semi finals

The Championship season maybe over for some clubs, but there are still games left for four of the teams. Three games are all it takes for one team to make the step up to the Premier League. Three of the clubs in this years play off's all came down from the Premier League last season. Blackpool, Birmingham and West Ham are joined by Welsh outfit Cardiff City in the bid to make it to the big time. The first legs of the ties take place this week where we see West Ham take in Cardiff and Blackpool face Birmingham City.

1# West Ham v Cardiff City
West Ham will not have expected to be in this position three months ago. The Hammers looked set to be returning to the big time through an automatic push. But with some poor performances and an incredible run by Reading, United were pushed out the top two and now are having to settle for the play off's. Having being expected to gain automatic promotion, West Ham's season will be a massive failure if they fail to go up. With top players on their side, it is essential they return to the big time. The Hammers are in good form going into their game at Cardiff having only lost one game in the last eighteen. Manager Sam Alladyce isn't new to the play off's having taken former club Bolton Wanderers via this route in 2001. Opposition for West Ham comes in the form of Cardiff City who again will be wanting promotion having witnessed fellow Welsh side Swansea gain promotion through this route last season. Malky Mackay is also no stranger to the play off's having experienced promotion whilst working at Watford in 2006. The Bluebirds have experienced play off heart ache in the last two seasons having been knocked out by Reading at the same stage last season. They were also beaten by Blackpool in the play off final in 2010. 

2# Blackpool v Birmingham City
Two relegated sides from last year, Blackpool and Birmingham both went down after results went against them on the final day of the season. Ian Holloway's Blackpool finished the season in fifth place behind opponents Birmingham who finished fourth. The Midlands club will fancy their chances with the second leg taking place at St Andrews. The two sides drew 2-2 at Blackpool last November which then saw the two play each other again in December where Birmingham took the points winning 3-0 at St Andrews. Blackpool are familiar with the play off's having gained promotion in 2010 where they beat Cardiff City at Wembley. Experienced striker Kevin Phillips will be facing his former side as he aims to get back into the big time. It's another Phillips though that will catch the eye, Matt, who ended the season with a place in the Championship team of the year. Opponents for the Seasiders Birmingham City go into this fixture as slight favourites and will want an instant return to the Premier League. Chris Hughton's side have had a decent season having worked their way up the table after having to catch up on games due to Europa League commitments. Striker Marlon King and winger Chris Burke have been key for the Blues this year and their contributions will need to continue if they are to make a return. 

FA Cup Final Preview: Chelsea v Liverpool

As we come to the end of the season, we see the FA Cup final arrive and a chance for silverware. After a Premier League v Championship clash in the Carling Cup final this year, we have two Premier League clubs taking each other on at Wembley. Chelsea who have been revitalised under temporary boss Roberto Di Matteo take on Carling Cup winners and an under performing Liverpool side. The London side have an important few weeks ahead of them as they try to secure a top four finish in the league as well as a Champions League final too against German giants Bayern Munich. On the other hand, Liverpool have had another inconsistent season in the league only winning five home games all year. The Carling Cup final win against Cardiff in February gave fans some silverware to sing about and a win this weekend will do no harm either.

After the sacking of former boss Andre Villas Boas, Chelsea were in disarray. Months later and the Blues are now in a position noone would have predicted at the start of the year. Under temporary manager Di Matteo, Chelsea's form have seen them battling it out for a top four finish in the league and two cup finals to play. This weekend's final against Liverpool is the first final for the club since the 2009/10 season where they beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Wembley to win the FA Cup. Striker Fernando Torres has rediscovered his form of old and after scoring four goals in his last two games, the Spaniard will want to continue finding the net against his old club. Fellow forward Didier Drogba has an incredible record at Wembley scoring an impressive seven goals in his seven appearances there. With it looking likely that Drogba will leave at the end of this season, he will want to reward the fans with one last strike. Defensively Chelsea look likely to be without Gary Cahill and David Luiz who are nursing injuries and with a hugely important midweek clash at home to Newcastle, the squad will certainly be stretched this week.

After another poor season in the league, Liverpool set their eyes upon their second cup final of the season. Success at the hands of Cardiff in February's Carling Cup final has been the only positive come from their year. Dismal home form has seen them win only five games out of a possible 18. Kenny Dalglish's side have though shown what a good side they can be in this years cups. Victories against both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Everton this year in both cups has taken away the up and down season they have endured in the league. Since an eight game ban for racism, striker Luis Suarez has shone with some important goals including the equaliser in the semi final of the FA Cup against Everton. A stunning hat trick against Norwich at the weekend, which included a 45-yard lob, has given the Uruguayan some positives to take away from the season. Apart from long term absentees Charlie Adam and Lucas Leiva, Dalglish will take a fully fit squad to London which will see them play at Wembley for the third time this season.

One to watch: Juan Mata (Chelsea) 
After just one season in England, Juan Mata has shown why he was so highly rated at Valencia. The Spaniard has given Chelsea that added spark in midfield and his creativity has seen him become one of the side's key members. His excellent vision and his hard work at both ends of the pitch, Mata will be very important if Chelsea are to come out winners on Saturday. He has had played in a number of positions this year, part of a front three or as a wide man and has looked comfortable every time. He has scored a number of important goals this year for the club including the 'ghost goal' against Tottenham Hotspur in the recent semi final.

One to watch: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) 
Captain fantastic is going to have to have an excellent game this weekend if he is to add another medal to his collection. Gerrard showed why he is so vital to this club when he scored a wonderful hat trick against rivals Everton in the 3-0 home win earlier on in the year. His determination and his ability to change games has seen the midfielder become one of the all time greats at Anfield. Gerrard will want a repeat of the Carling Cup win  which saw his side reach a final since the Champions League final in 2007. Gerrard has been unfortunate with injuries this season and the Englishman will do all he can to drive his team to success in the clubs second final of the season. 

Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea