Football: Some might argue that the pedigree of the FA Cup has diminished in recent years but there is no doubt that tomorrow's final between Chelsea and Liverpool is one of the most important matches of Kenny Dalglish’s managerial career.
The Reds boss, who has guided the club to the trophy on two previous occasions, will hope his side can banish their dismal league form to seal a cup double at Wembley.
With two league matches left, Liverpool sit eighth in the league, a humbling 34 points behind leaders Manchester City.
And given that Reds owner John Henry’s pre-season goal of securing Champions League football for 2012 was sunk long ago, lifting the FA Cup may prove Dalglish’s only chance of salvation.
But the Liverpool manager argues that the final is not a definitive moment for either club.
He said: “It’s always special when you win a game and somebody puts a bit of silverware in your hand afterwards. But I don’t think it’s a defining result for either club.”
However Dalglish, who has yet to lose in 13 encounters against Chelsea, recording 10 wins, did admit that the event had the nerves jangling.
“I think everyone is nervous. The fans are nervous, the management, staff, owners, directors, everyone, but it is the same for both teams,” he said.
“If you are not nervous I think you have a bit of a problem.”
One man determined to help secure the trophy is Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard.
The 31-year-old will be recalled to the squad along with Luis Suarez, Jose Reina, Craig Bellamy and Daniel Agger after being rested for the midweek defeat to Fulham.
He said: “This club is all about winning big trophies and the FA Cup certainly comes under that.
“We will assess the season after the weekend. If we can look back and say we have won two cups we will be happy.”
Meanwhile Chelsea’s caretaker chief Roberto di Matteo also faces a watershed moment as he leads his side into the first of two major finals.
The interim boss at Stamford Bridge has won the trophy twice as a Chelsea player, with his goal after 43 seconds for the Blues in the 1997 win over Middlesbrough being the fastest scored in the final at the old Wembley.
He then set another record in 2000 when his winner against Aston Villa was the last FA Cup final goal there before the stadium was demolished.
Now he stands on the brink of following compatriots Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea) and Roberto Mancini (Manchester City) by becoming the third Italian manager in a row to win the cup.
He said: “It is important we keep going. We want to win the FA Cup, and the Champions League, and although we have done well to get to the finals, we have not won anything yet.”
Di Matteo is shorn of centre backs David Luiz and Gary Cahill (both hamstring) but in Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres has two world-class strikers both eager to be unleashed.
And club captain John Terry issued a rallying cry as he urged his team-mates to help di Matteo land the manager’s job full-time by claiming their fourth FA Cup in six years today.
“He’s obviously done very well in the league and all competitions to get us where we are today,” said Terry. “So, if we can do it with the added bonus that Robbie can get the job at the end, that’d be great.”