Wembley set for battle of the minnows

April 4th, 2008 - 1:20 pm ICT by admin  

(FA Cup Preview)
London, April 4 (DPA) It was in 1927 when Cardiff City last reached the FA Cup football final; 1912 when Barnsley last got there. But the two will play off for a place in this season’s show-piece in a Wembley semi-final Sunday. Even by the remarkable standards of the world’s oldest cup competition, this has been an astonishing season, as Barnsley saw off Liverpool and Chelsea to reach a last four that, for the first time in 100 years, features only one top-flight side.

“Whoever lifts the FA Cup this season will become a living legend at their club,” said Barnsley skipper Brian Howard.

“At the start of this season, hands on hearts, none of this season’s semi-finalists thought they had a chance of winning it. We have a chance to make history now and it’s up to each player to make the most of this moment.”

They are likely to be without forward Daniel Nardiello, who suffered a hamstring strain in training, while Stephen Foster has a badly bruised foot.

If it is Barnsley who already have already written two glorious chapters in Cup history, there is more too to Cardiff’s presence at Wembley than simply the irony that after the final was held in Cardiff between 2001 and 2006, it is now fans from Wales who will have to brave the nightmare of First Great Western trains.

Cardiff’s very existence has been in doubt and, with debts approaching $47.6 million, it took a court verdict last month to save them from slipping into administration.

They are five points off the play-offs and manager Dave Jones has warned that if they do not achieve promotion, there will have to be player sales in the summer.

Barnsley are a further 10 points back, with only goal difference keeping them above the relegation zone.

The sides drew 1-1 when they met at Barnsley’s Oakwell ground earlier in the season, but with more than 50,000 extra fans expected at Wembley Sunday, it will be a very different occasion.

“It’s there for the taking, but that’s what Barnsley will be saying as well,” said Cardiff forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

“We can’t get carried away. We must approach it in the right way. With all due respect to Barnsley we all know that if we play to our best and they play to their best then Cardiff will win. But we all know that football’s not like that.”

On Saturday, Portsmouth, the only Premier League club remaining in the competition, take on Championship side West Bromwich Albion looking to reach their first FA Cup final since 1939.

The closest Pompey have come since was in 1992 when they lost a semi-final replay to Liverpool on penalties.

Portsmouth beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals but will be without striker Jermain Defoe against West Brom as the England international is ineligible having already played for Tottenham Hotspur in the competition.

“Of course we will miss Defoe but we have played well without him all season,” said manager Harry Redknapp.

“I’ve got (Nwankwo) Kanu, (Milan) Baros and (Kevin) Nugent, so I’ve got plenty of options up there.”

But five-time winners West Brom are confident of going all the way and striker Zoltan Gera says the side isn’t overawed at the prospect of taking on a team sitting sixth in the Premier League.

“Some of the best teams in the world are out, like Manchester United and Arsenal, so we have a big chance,” said the Hungarian.

“It is a big test for us but I hope we will play well against a good side in Portsmouth.”

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