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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Lawro's FA Cup final prediction

By Mark Lawrenson
BBC Sport football expert

The meeting between Liverpool and West Ham at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday has the makings of the best FA Cup final for many years.

Liverpool will be favourites, but unlike previous finals between Southampton and Arsenal and Manchester United and Millwall, there is an underdog more than capable of emerging victorious.

West Ham will need to have everyone fit and available to have a chance of springing that surprise, and they will be desperate to have Dean Ashton and Matthew Etherington fit.

But they play at a very high tempo and I'm sure their approach will again be in keeping with the very attacking mindset of manager Alan Pardew.

Pardew has been positive in his approach. I remember a game at Fulham earlier this season when they won with a very attacking formation.

It was a statement that said West Ham were back in the Premiership, they were there to have a go, and they were there to win matches - an approach they have maintained.

Hayden Mullins will be missed through suspension because he is a vital holding player, a crucial contrast to the more attack-minded players.

Gerrard celebrates winning the Champions League
Gerrard is the epitome of the power, size and energy of Liverpool's great strength - their midfield

I'm sure Pardew will be of the opinion that you have really got to have a go at Liverpool. You have also seriously got to compete in midfield otherwise Liverpool will overrun you.

Steven Gerrard, Momo Sissoko and Xabi Alonso are all powerful, very fit and energetic players who get around the pitch and are good on the ball.

West Ham will look to the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker to redress that balance, because this area is Liverpool's strength.

The Hammers' strength is when they get forward. They are not the best defensively, but they have pace at the back with Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon, who have great powers of recovery.

I'm not sure if Lionel Scaloni will play, but I think Liverpool might overload the left with in-form Harry Kewell and John Arne Riise if he does.

Liverpool under Rafael Benitez, in contrast, will never go on all-out attack. They will keep the ball, work the opportunites and not commit too many men forward for the first half-hour.

They will keep the ball and hope that will serve them well, because history shows us that teams that run with the ball in cup finals struggle to maintain that for 90 minutes.

Liverpool will hope to make West Ham work to get the ball - and in the process wear them down.

Benitez's side won't change their approach, and I believe that will be enough to get them a win - but the qualification to that prediction is that this is a final where the underdogs have enough about them to have their day.



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