Arsenal and Birmingham City go head to head for the first piece of silverware on Sunday in the Carling Cup final at Wembley.

For Arsenal they go in search of their first trophy since they won the FA Cup in 2005, beating Manchester United, on penalties, in the final.

Birmingham's last trophy came in 2002 when they won the Championship Play-Offs, beating Norwich City on penalties at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Their last and only major competition win came back in 1963, in this tournament.

The Gunners have won the competition twice, first in 1987, when they beat Liverpool and the last time coming back in 1993, when they beat Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley, thanks to goals from Paul Merson and Steve Morrow.

Since then they have reached the final once, back in 2007, when they lost to Chelsea despite taking the lead through Theo Walcott, who scored his first goal for the club.

In total the Gunners have reached the final six times in 1968, '69, '87, '88, '93 and 2007.

Birmingham are no strangers to the competition though, having won it back in 1963, beating Aston Villa 3-1 on aggregate. They were also runners up in 2001 when they were beaten on penalties by Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger's side are still fighting on all four fronts and striker Nicklas Bendtner is desperate to get the first trophy secured as he told the Official Arsenal Programme: "I'd love to say that I have trophies to show for my time at Arsenal. That's why I'm here, to win things and play with the best players.

"Everyone wants to be a part of that so it'd be nice if we can start off with some silverware on Sunday, it's a very big game and we need to take it seriously to make sure of it.

"There have been ups and downs for me this season but I think things have turned - I've finally overcome my injury 100 per cent and feel much sharper, more myself."

Alex McLeish has won the Scottish League Cup on three occasions, in 2002, 2003 and 2005, when in charge of Glasgow Rangers, and he'd love to secure the English equivalent.

Speaking to the Birmingham Mail he said: "My message to the players would be 'don't let it pass you by'.

"It's a cup final and the occasion can flash by and you think 'where did that go?'

"The players will be given tasks and I'm sure everyone will make a contribution, win or lose.

"But we're going there to win, make no mistake," McLeish continued. "The guys don't want to come off that pitch and have any regrets - and knowing them like I do, I am confident they will rise to the challenge."


This will be the 133rd meeting between the two sides but only the second time in the League Cup. The only other time came in October 1997 when it took extra time to separate the two sides at Highbury.

It was the visitors who took the lead through Tony Hey after just 20 minutes before Luis Boa Morte struck in the second half to send the game into extra time but only after the Blues were reduced to 10 men when Darren Wassall was sent off. It was soon 10 versus 10 when Jason Crowe was sent off for the home side just a minute into extra time.

Goals from David Platt and Alberto Mendez and another from Boa Morte wrapped up a 4-1 win.

The Gunners currently lead the head to head by 59 wins to 38 and the Blues have won just one of their last 19 meetings, back in 2005, when Emile Heskey struck in injury time to secure a 2-1 win.

Arsene Wenger's side have already done the double of the Blues in the Premier League, a 2-1 home win followed by a 3-0 win at St Andrews on New Year's Day.


Arsenal have overcome three Premier League sides on their way to the final, starting with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in Round 3. It took extra time to separate the sides with the score 1-1 after 90 minutes but Arsenal finished strongly with two penalties from Samir Nasri and a strike by Andrei Arshavin earning them a 4-1 win.

They scored four again in Round 4 as they beat Newcastle United 4-0 at St James Park, with two from Theo Walcott. A 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic followed to set up the semi-final clash with Ipswich Town.

Just like Sunday's opponents they lost the first leg of the semi-final, going down 1-0 at Portman Road, after Tamas Priskin scored the only goal of the game. They bounced back in style though at The Emirates, winning 3-0 thanks to second half goals from Nicklas Bendtner, Laurent Koscielny and Cesc Fabregas.

Birmingham started their Carling Cup campaign with a home tie against Rochdale and eventually won 3-2 despite going a goal down. Another League 1 side provided the opposition in Round 3 with the MK Dons the visitors to St Andrews but three goals in four first half minutes secured a 3-1 win.

Brentford were the third League 1 side to face the Blues and they went the closest, only losing on penalties after holding the Premier League side to a 1-1 draw on their own patch. It took an injury time goal from Kevin Phillips to prevent the Blues crashing out.

They beat local rivals Aston Villa 2-1 to set up the semi-final clash with West Ham, where they lost the first leg 2-1 against the 10-man Hammers at Upton Park. They then found themselves 1-0 down in the second leg and 3-1 on aggregate before second half goals from Lee Bowyer and Roger Johnson ensured extra time. Craig Gardner then scored the all important goal four minutes into extra time to secure their place at Wembley.


Robin Van Persie will lead his side out at Wembley, with Cesc Fabregas set to miss the game through injury. He limped off during the midweek win over Stoke City, while striker Theo Walcott left the field on a stretcher and will definitely miss out.

Birmingham could be without former Arsenal star Alexander Hleb who is suffering with a bruised knee but Cameron Jerome should recover from an ankle injury to take his place.

David Bentley, Curtis Davies and Colin Doyle are all cup-tied.


Mike Dean takes charge of the match for the first time and will complete the set for the Wirral born Referee who took charge of the 2008 FA Cup final between Portsmouth and Cardiff City.

He was also the Referee in the 2006 Championship Play-Off final between Leeds United and Watford.