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Liverpool eye 'special' League Cup final triumph against Chelsea

By AFP

February 24, 2024 10:16 AM


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Liverpool have their sights on a "special" League Cup triumph in Sunday's final against Chelsea as Jurgen Klopp reaches the first milestone moment of his long goodbye.

Klopp is in his last season as Liverpool manager after the German's bombshell announcement that he will step down at the end of the current campaign.

Although Klopp is convinced he no longer has the energy to drive Liverpool's relentless quest for silverware, there has been little sign of the feared decline in his side's fortunes following his stunning revelation.

Liverpool have won five of their six matches in all competitions, scoring 21 goals in the process, since the 56-year-old revealed his plan to quit.

Extending that hot streak at Wembley this weekend would give Liverpool their first trophy since 2022, when they beat Chelsea in both the FA Cup and League Cup finals.

Klopp has won six major trophies during an iconic nine-year reign and his quadruple-chasing players are desperate to give him a silverware-filled farewell.

As well as this weekend's date with Chelsea, Liverpool sit four points clear at the top of the Premier League, face Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday and take on Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16.

"We want to make it a special day and get our first trophy of the season," Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk said.

"The end of the season will probably be very emotional for a lot of people, including the manager, but we are not there yet."

Klopp's assistant Pep Lijnders echoed Van Dijk's call to make it a day to remember for their boss.

"We'll go for it. It's a special game. Special games need special performances so we have to focus on that," Lijnders said.

Lijnders insisted Klopp was always confident Liverpool's players would keep their focus after his shock announcement.

"I think you underestimate our squad, the personalities in it," he said.

"A lot of these boys didn't win anything with Liverpool yet so of course they give everything despite the manager saying he is leaving. We are stable enough to deal with it."

- 'Dream for us' -

Lijnders' reference to several of Liverpool's young squad waiting to taste success underscores Klopp's achievement in rebuilding his team after the pre-season departures of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and James Milner among others.

The Reds' resolve will be tested at Wembley by a mounting injury crisis that leaves them without Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai face late fitness tests.

But taking advantage of Liverpool's injury woes will be easier said than done for inconsistent Chelsea.

Mauricio Pochettino's team were one of Liverpool's victims during their recent goal spree, losing 4-1 at Anfield in January.

Former Tottenham and Southampton boss Pochettino, yet to win a trophy in England, has been under fire from angry Chelsea fans as a troubled season threatens to spiral out of control.

With Chelsea languishing 25 points behind Liverpool in 10th place in the Premier League, a surprise win at Wembley would be a major boost to the Argentine's job security.

Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly is expected to fly in from the United States to watch the Blues' first cup final since he and Behdad Eghbali bought the London club from Roman Abramovich in 2022.

Boehly has spent over £1 billion ($1.26 billion) on signings in a failed attempt to recapture the Abramovich glory days.

Pochettino, whose Tottenham side were beaten by Chelsea in the 2015 League Cup final, knows how significant it would be to end the Blues' wait for a first domestic prize since the 2018 FA Cup.

"It's a dream for us. We have the opportunity and we're going to fight. The team is ready and we're going to be very competitive," said Pochettino, who has won just one of his 13 meetings with Klopp.

"The team is awake to the competition. There was a click to change in the way we compete, that we were missing in the first half of the season."


AFP


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