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FOOTBALL: FINDING WORTHY WINNERS.

MANCHESTER United must overcome a familiar foe if they are to reach their first League Cup final since 1994.

Not only did Blackburn Rovers defeat Sir Alex Ferguson's men in their recent Premiership encounter last month, their squad also contains five Old Trafford old-boys, including striking duo Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke.

But a combination of poor early season form and attractive home draws have combined to ensure Ferguson had fielded sides far stronger than has been the norm for this competition. Having got close to their first Millennium Stadium final, don't expect many youngsters in the home line-up.

Here, Post Sport assesses the key battles.

ROY CARROLL v BRAD FRIEDEL Friedel has established himself as one of the top goalkeepers in the Premiership with a series of solid performances. Carroll has started two of United's three Worthington Cup outings and the Northern Ireland international is set to benefit from Fabien Barthez's absence.

VERDICT - Friedel has the edge, but Carroll's talented shouldn't be underestimated.

ROY KEANE v GARRY FLITCROFT Keane was returning after a four-month absence when he made his late substitute appearance at Ewood Park, by which time Flitcroft had already netted what proved to be the winner. With muchneeded match fitness building up steadily, Keane has become a growing influence. VERDICT - Flitcroft has his work cut out trying to stop Keane marauding through the Blackburn midfield.

PAUL SCHOLES v DWIGHT YORKE Yorke's loss of form after United's 1999 Treble-winning year ended with a fall-out with Ferguson. But after an outstanding display in the recent encounter at Ewood Park, he signalled his return to form by grabbing the winner over Middlesbrough on Wednesday, while Scholes netted a late header against Sunderland.

VERDICT - Scholes is returning to the form which made him such a vital man for England. But, with revenge the spur for Yorke, Blackburn have a potential matchwinner in him.

CAPTION(S):

GETTING BACK TO THEIR BEST: Blackburn Rovers' Andy Cole (left) and Dwight Yorke are finally finding their feet at Ewood Park after a slow start to the season; UNDER-RATED: Carroll
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 7, 2003
Words:344
Previous Article:FOOTBALL: SOUTH AFRICA'S FRESH CUP BID.
Next Article:FOOTBALL: Upbeat Murphy's sights trained on cup treble repeat.


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