• Cardiff City v Crystal Palace, Carling Cup preview

Cardiff motivated by Freedman's mind games

ESPNsoccernet staff
January 24, 2012
Anthony Gardner gave Crystal Palace a slim advantage after the first leg © Getty Images

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay says Crystal Palace counterpart Dougie Freedman has provided him with plenty of ammunition for his team talk ahead of the Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Cardiff City Stadium.

The Bluebirds go into the clash 1-0 behind following their defeat in the opening leg at Selhurst Park, but have won 13 of their 17 home games this term and will fancy their chances of turning the tables and securing a third visit to Wembley in five seasons.

Freedman has attempted to pile the pressure on the Welsh club by suggesting their supporters will be "scared stiff'' of seeing their charges come up short again following their play-off defeats to Reading in the semi-finals last year and Blackpool in the 2010 final, as well as their 2008 FA Cup final loss to Portsmouth.

Mackay says he is unconcerned by his fellow Scot's comments, and has backed the Cardiff faithful to be their 12th man.

"As far as his comments are concerned I look after my own club, it is not my style to about other clubs," Mackay said. "I have enough to be dealing with here, but, needless to say, part of the team talk is done.

"We are obviously excited. We are in the semi-finals of a cup, we are preparing properly but we are looking to enjoy it. We have done well in the Carling Cup this season, we have had some fantastic games and have all enjoyed it.

"We are 1-0 down at half-time so to speak, but we are going back to our stadium and it will be a full house and rocking like it was on Saturday.

"I was delighted with how the fans showed their passion and got behind the team on Saturday and I don't see any difference (on Tuesday). It will be a fantastic occasion but we need to play the game, not the occasion.''

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. Freedman claims the hosts will be feeling the weight of expectation as well as haunted by the memories of falling short in big games during recent seasons.

"I think they are under more pressure to succeed. Maybe not in this competition, but with the money they have spent this season,'' he said. "Their fans expect to succeed, they are a passionate crowd and one that has nearly got there. In the play-off games they have always been a nearly team, nearly getting there.

"We are just enjoying ourselves, no one expected us to be here, we are looking forward to a challenge that most people thought we would never see.

"There are two levels of expectation, Cardiff have got a bit more pressure on their shoulders than we have got right now. The experience we have got is from relegation battles, not from play-off semi-finals like Cardiff have had.

"It's a great club but I think with the fans' expectations and the heartache they have had over the last few years is difficult to take. At Selhurst Park the atmosphere is different - we almost can't believe we are here, it's sheer enjoyment.''

Freedman's preparations for the first leg were disrupted by a virus which swept through the club, but he faces no such problems on Tuesday and 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.''

Key battle: Peter Whittingham makes Cardiff tick at the base of their midfield, but he was generally ineffective in the first leg as Kagisho Dikgacoi consistently made his presence known. The former Aston Villa man will hope to find more time and space at home, which could influence the course of the match.

Bet of the day: The game to be decided in extra-time - a possibility if only considering that is when away goals come into effect - is a tempting option at 7/2 with bet365.

Prediction: 2-1 a.e.t. (Palace win on away goals.)

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