Liverpool hold a slender advantage heading into Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City but after a dismal loss to Bolton on the weekend, the Sky Blues - fresh from beating Tottenham - have every reason to feel confident.
The Reds were stunned 3-1 by Bolton on Saturday evening, prompting boss Kenny Dalglish to publicly criticise the side. On the other hand, Manchester City knocked off high-flying Spurs, in a win which enhances their title credentials.
Both sides now must switch their attention to Wednesday’s second leg at Anfield, where Liverpool hold a 1-0 advantage after winning at Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago.
Manchester City’s James Milner said :We will be going there to get the result we need to take us to Wembley. The Carling Cup is a major honour, make no mistake about it. People talk about it being a lesser trophy for some reason, but it is big and in truth any trophy is important.”
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard added: “To lift the cup at Wembley would mean an awful lot. To get to Wembley is the target, to win it is the dream.”
The winner will face Cardiff City who defeated Crystal Palace 3-1 on penalties after the tie had ended 1-1 on aggregate. Whoever wins at Anfield, will feel confident of taking care of a second tier club.
Milner added City’s third round FA Cup exit to Manchester United would spur them on, having won the FA Cup last season.
“It was a big disappointment not being able to defend our trophy but if there is a plus side to being out of the FA Cup, it is that we have a free weekend coming up,” he said. “That means we can freshen up the legs a bit more after playing every three days or so like we have been.”
He added: “As long as Manchester City are winning and we are sending the fans home happy, that’s all we want. It’s a good feeling to give them something to shout about and we’ll be hoping to do the same again at Liverpool.”
Meanwhile, Gerrard said bouncing back from Saturday’s loss to Bolton was the main thing for his side and added he felt Dalglish’s rant was justified.
“It was definitely justified. When you put in a performance like we did as a group you expect criticism, especially from your manager,” Gerrard said.
“Kenny spoke in the dressing room after the game and on Monday before training. He wasn’t angry, he just said it as it was. He didn’t lose his rag or his control. He told individuals and us as a group that it wasn’t acceptable. As captain of the team that is down to me and he went through all of us.
“We didn’t need telling really. I knew at half-time and I knew after the game that that hadn’t been good enough. Maybe the lads had one eye on this and one eye on that. At the beginning of the season the big objective for this club was top four so if you look at it that way, Bolton is bigger than Manchester City.
“There is no good time to perform like that when you play for this club. You have to win every game. The people new to the club will appreciate and understand that a bit more after a performance like that. You can’t do it here. The fans won’t accept it, they don’t deserve it. It’s not allowed.
“Otherwise you get criticised by your manager, like we have all experienced. I have been here a long time and experienced days like that and the important thing is to move on from it fast. If we perform like that against Manchester City, there will be no Wembley trip.”