Liverpool aiming to end six-year trophy wait
London: For a club dripping in silverware, recent years have been harrowing for Liverpool on and off the pitch and Sunday`s League Cup final against Cardiff City offers the Merseysiders a reminder of happier times.
Since winning the FA Cup in 2006 Liverpool have hardly had a sniff of a trophy, suffered a bitter takeover battle, dropped out of the Premier League`s `Big Four` and in recent months found themselves embroiled in a damaging racism row.
Not even the return of former manager Kenny Dalglish has managed to reinstate Liverpool as title pretenders although, in cup football at least, the Scot has provided suffering fans a silver lining to a depressing few years.
Even Championship (second division) Cardiff have more recent memories of a domestic final than Liverpool, having reached the FA Cup final in 2008.
While City travel to Wembley hopeful of becoming the first Welsh club to win the competition, it looks a gilt-edged chance for Dalglish`s side.
Captain Steven Gerrard said victory on Sunday could act as a springboard for the Anfield club who are also in the last eight of the FA Cup.
"Six years without a trophy for this football club isn`t good enough," said Gerrard who scored in Liverpool`s dramatic 2006 FA Cup final win over West Ham United.
"It`s been too long and everyone knows that. It`s time we delivered a trophy.
"Everyone knows the club has been through some tough times but we`re moving forward now.
"We`re all desperate to bring success back. It`s what we`re working so hard to achieve," added England midfielder Gerrard.
"I`m hoping this is just the beginning for us. It would be stupid to win the League Cup and then rest on our laurels. This is an important cup for us but there are other big prizes we want to strive for."
Liverpool have won the League Cup seven times but it is their haul of 18 top-flight titles that defines them across the world.
They have not won the championship since Dalglish steered them to the crown in 1990 and while they are miles away from the Premier League leaders this season, they are still in the hunt for a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League.
Liverpool, in seventh, are four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and Gerrard says an emphatic display against Cardiff could spark a late-season surge.
"I honestly believe winning this cup will be the catalyst for a successful period for the club," he said.
"It will give us the belief and confidence to deliver more. That`s what happened back in 2001 - we picked up the League Cup and then went on to win the treble (with the FA Cup and UEFA Cup)."
Cardiff are back at Wembley for the fourth time in four years.
They won an FA Cup semi-final there in 2008 before returning to lose 1-0 to Portsmouth in the final and being beaten 3-2 by Blackpool in the 2010 promotion playoff final.
Under manager Malky Mackay they are again pushing for promotion to the Premier League although that will be in the back of the minds of the 32,000 fans who will head to London on Sunday.
Striker Peter Whittingham believes Cardiff can upset the odds against Liverpool although he still has painful memories of the defeat by Blackpool.
"We don`t want to think about the last time we were at Wembley too much," he said. "It was horrible last time for everyone connected to the club.
"As players you do want to put things right though and what better way to do that than on Sunday."
Liverpool`s Craig Bellamy scored against former club Manchester City in the semi-finals but said he was not looking forward to beating his native Cardiff, the club he played for on loan last season.
"It will be a strange situation because it`ll be the first time I`ve ever played against them - and it`s something I`ve really not looked forward to doing," said Bellamy.