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The extraordinary thing in the furore over fixture congestion is that, while the FA have considered the sacrilege of switching the FA Cup final to a Wednesday, nobody has questioned the validity of the League Cup.

Most of the other footballing nations seem suspicious of one cup competition, never mind two, yet on the Carling Cup blithely goes, with Sunday's final between Liverpool and Chelsea drawing so much global attention that a ballot had to be held on Friday to determine who got the last few press seats.

Nonetheless, something will have to give if Sven-Goran Eriksson is to have his four weeks at the end of the domestic season to prepare his England squad for the World Cup - and it looks like being replays in one of the FA Cup rounds.

The most logical move would be to make the Carling Cup semi-finals one-rather than two-legged affairs, but with little else left to lose, the Football League, which runs the competition, is extremely reluctant to allow that to happen.

Perhaps with concerted pressure and threats of boycotts from Premiership sides, the change could be forced upon it but the truth is that the Carling Cup is too much fun these days. It seems to employ better script-writers than the FA Cup.

The League Cup's early position in in the calendar helps, giving the competition cachet as the first silverware of the season, an insight into things to come; the FA Cup, by contrast, often feels like a mere consolation. Leaving that aside, recent finals have had a sense of occasion and of actually mattering - something that could not be said of Manchester United's walkover against Millwall in last season's FA Cup final.

Last year Middlesbrough and Bolton were both desperate for a European spot they knew they had little chance of attaining through the league, and the result was an open, passionate game. The previous year, Liverpool revelled in their victory over United partly for reasons of parochial pride, but also because it implied they were not as far from England's summit as the league table suggested.

Liverpool will have a similar motivation this time around, and a trophy after seven months in the job would give credence to the Rafael Benitez revolution, despite inconsistency in other competitions. Chelsea, meanwhile, have a lurching ship to steady.

A week ago, it seemed likely they would be going to Cardiff in search of the first leg of a potential quadruple, but after Jose Mourinho's triple-substitution gamble backfired in the FA Cup at Newcastle, and Barcelona took a first-leg lead in the Champions League on Wednesday, there is a real need for them to re-assert themselves.

A 2-1 first leg reverse in the Nou Camp is far from irrecoverable but the greater concern must be Mourinho's reaction to it. Previously he has shrugged and accepted (his few) defeats as an inevitable part of football. But his protest against Frank Rijkaard on Wednesday smacked more of a man under pressure.

Two managers, both seeking a first trophy in England, both seeking to rectify recent wobbles; two clubs, one the old guard desperate to cling to status, the other the thrusting nouveau riche: the League Cup's never had it so good.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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