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David Thompson 9th Jan 2012 - 17:15

'Wilfried' score and help Eagles to Wembley Final?


Crystal Palace v Cardiff

Carling Cup semi-final, first leg

Tuesday 20:00 - live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Crystal Palace 13/8  Draw 2/1  Cardiff 29/20

The first game of four Carling Cup semi-finals is set at Selhurst Park and will be an all Championship affair. Both sides come off recent FA Cup set-backs with Palace having lost to Derby and the Bluebirds going down to West Brom. Both Dougie Freedman and Malky Mackay will be the first to admit that promotion from the league is their primary goal, however dates at Wembley don't come along all that often and their teams will be doing all they can to get off to a good start in the first leg of the cup tie.

Both these sides deserve their place in the Semi-final with Cardiff having got past the likes of Burnley and Leicester as well as Premier League opposition with their victory over Blackburn Rovers. Meanwhile Palace's run has been even tougher, with victories over Wigan, Middlesbrough, Southampton and none other than Manchester United in the quarter-finals.

Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Darren Ambrose are the club's top scorers in the competition. You can back Zaha anytime at 15/8 and first goalscorer at 7/1 whilst Ambrose is 7/2 and a very generous 10/1. 19-year-old Zaha has recently signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal for the Eagles and with his man of the match display against Man U William Hill have decided to offer a Match Winner centered around the England U19 star. We have enhanced the anytime wincast for the striker to score anytime and Crystal Palace to win from 7/2 to 4/1 which considering his form in the cup and with the cameras watching is tempting to say the least.

As for Cardiff expect a very different eleven to that which lost out to West Brom in a battling defeat at the Hawthorns. Kenny Miller will be back in the fray and is 6/1 to grab the first and as short as 7/4 anytime which is unsurprising when considering that Cardiff go into the game at Selhurst as slight favourites. For a bit more value look to Scotsman Don Cowie, the man that moved from Watford in the summer is a 12/1 shot for the first goal and a very generous 5/1 anytime, and when considered that he is the clubs leading scorer in the Carling Cup that 5/1 is a must.

Both sides have a long way to go if they are to be declared the champions at Wembley in February. The winning team will be up against either Manchester City or Liverpool in the final but both Freedman and Mackay will want that date for the fans. Malky Mackay has set his stall out early and declared that his team will be pushing for goals and a result at Selhurst. Cardiff has the second best home form in the league and will be confident of completing the task in a fortnights time at the Cardiff City Stadium should they have any advantage to defend. Dougie Freedman will take heart from the fact that the Bluebirds are coming off a run of away games and will hope that the ten changes made for the FA Cup will have disrupted their preparations for the late night game in south London.

If Mackay's side do look to open things up then both teams to score can be backed at 19/20, one goal for Cardiff in the first half is priced at 15/8 and over 2.5 total match goals is available at 5/4.

Crystal Palace are 5/4 to qualify for their first cup final since 1990 whilst Cardiff who lie 3rd in the Championship are 4/7 to make it to Wembley. Whatever the outcome the guarantee is that a Championship team will be in the final. That will be the first time since Birmingham in 2000/2001, and my money would certainly be on this semi-final to be more entertaining than the all Premiership affair that begins on Wednesday night.



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