Cardiff v Crystal Palace preview
Cardiff and Palace meet in Wales for place in Wembley showpiece
By Razwan Mirza. Last Updated: 24/01/12 3:26pm
Malky Mackay: Determined
It is the moment of truth as Cardiff play host to Championship rivals Crystal Palace aiming to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the hope of guaranteeing a place in the 2012 Carling Cup final.
The Eagles lead the tie courtesy of Anthony Gardner's header at Selhurst Park a fortnight ago, and are just 90 minutes away from a meeting with either Manchester City or Liverpool.
The Welsh side have other ideas though, and a repeat of the 2-0 home win City enjoyed in the league meeting between the sides back in November would be enough to send them through to their first League Cup final, and a third Wembley appearance in five seasons after defeats in the 2008 FA Cup final against Portsmouth and the 2010 play-off final to Blackpool
The Bluebirds have lost in the play-offs to Reading and Blackpool in the last two campaigns, and missed out completely on the final day of the season three years ago.
However, the club's home form has been exemplary this term having won 13 of their 17 home games and will clearly fancy their chances of turning the tables.
Cardiff striker Kenny Miller believes patience will be key if they are to overturn a one-goal deficit.
The Scotland international said: "It took us until around the 70th minute to make the breakthrough in the league game so we know what the game will bring. We have to be patient."
And manager Malky Mackay expects their supporters to be the 12th man on what is expected to be a high-octane encounter.
"I feel a confident stadium with people who desperately want the team to do well because they see the team care, they see a team playing with passion and they embrace that. That's why I feel they can be our 12th man back at Cardiff City Stadium."
For Palace, a trip to Wembley would be welcomed by fans and the board alike after going into administration during the summer of 2010 and were on the brink of going out of business until fans Steve Parish and Martin Long took over the ailing club.
Palace's cup run has seen them dispose of Crawley, Wigan, Middlesbrough and Southampton before November's sensational 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The South-East London club know a clean sheet in Wales will take them to a major final for the first time in more than 20 years.
Darren Ambrose, whose wonder goal dumped the Premier League champions out of the competition in the quarter-finals is looking forward to the clash.
"If you can't enjoy games like this then you shouldn't be playing football," he said.
"These are the games you dream of when you are growing up. Big nights like this in the semi-finals.
"We're not nervous at all. We are 90 minutes away from a big cup final but I think if everyone can go out there and enjoy themselves we'll be all right."
And manager Dougie Freedman's preparations for the second leg are a lot better than they were for the first leg, which were disrupted by a virus which swept through the club.
He faces no such problems for the game and even rested nine players in Saturday's narrow 2-1 defeat at Blackpool.
"Everyone's fit, the bug has gone which is fantastic news," he said.
"Everyone has been rested, we'll be a lot stronger physically than the first time round. This time we go down there with a fully-fit squad and it's a challenge we are looking forward to."
Cardiff boss Mackay will wait before making a decision over the availability of Kevin McNaughton.
The Scot is currently recovering from the calf niggle that has kept him out of action since the first leg. Darcy Blake is set to continue in his place if he does not make it.
Striker Rudy Gestede is also coming back from an ankle problem, while Robert Earnshaw was named on the bench for Saturday's win over Portsmouth after a muscle strain.
For Palace, a number of players are expected to return to the first team as Freedman chose to rest them for their most recent trip to the seaside when they narrowly lost out to Blackpool.
Possible starting XIs
Cardiff: Marshall, Blake, Hudson, Turner, Taylor, Mason, Cowie, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Miller.
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Clyne, McCarthy, Gardner, Parr; Jedinak, Dikgacoi; Zaha, Martin, Ambrose; Murray.