League Cup final talking points: Attacking Reds up against stubborn Blues
Chelsea’s much-vaunted defence will take on Liverpool’s free-scoring attack in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
The Reds reached the final with a 2-0 aggregate victory against Arsenal and are 13/10 favourites to win inside 90 minutes while the Blues are 11/5 outsiders despite a 3-0 win against Tottenham over two legs.
Here, we look at the major League Cup final talking points ahead of the Wembley showdown.
The battle of the German tacticians
Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel have faced each other 17 times in management. Liverpool’s boss boasts nine victories, with Tuchel prevailing just three times. However, Klopp has so far been unable to get the better of Tuchel in England.
Tuchel has led Chelsea to one win and two draws against Liverpool. Both Premier League encounters this season ended honours even.
This is an N'Golo Kante appreciation tweet. pic.twitter.com/4AQZi0HiOE
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 23, 2022
First, Chelsea’s 10 men battled to a creditable 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, before the Blues hit back from the brink to snatch a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in January.
Both encounters this season proved open, attacking and entertaining contests. Should Sunday’s final follow suit, the Wembley crowd will be treated to a tussle fit to decide the destination of a major trophy.
A final of growing significance for Liverpool
Liverpool’s decorated recent run under Klopp has pushed the League Cup down the Reds’ priority pecking order. But Manchester City’s Premier League dominance this season leaves the Carabao Cup as a bigger target, even if the title race is back on.
Jürgen Klopp was very happy with a performance that saw Liverpool learn from the opening 15 minutes to power to a 6-0 win over Leeds United ⤵
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 23, 2022
City’s shock loss to Tottenham and Liverpool’s 6-0 win against Leeds on Wednesday night have put the Mersesysiders back in the Premier League hunt, but that will not mean any focus is lost on Sunday.
This is the Reds’ first chance to lift something tangible this season, and Klopp and company will not intend to waste it. The FA Cup and Champions League are still possibilities, but Liverpool will want to let this trophy tilt pass by.
Lukaku could be on the bench again
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku continues to fight for fluency and rhythm at Chelsea following his club-record £98m summer switch from Inter Milan.
The 28-year-old was an unused substitute in Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League win over Lille and might face the same fate this weekend.
Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic impressed up front with Hakim Ziyech also shining. If Chelsea want to try to stretch Liverpool or even match the Reds’ mobility, then Lukaku could be out of luck again.
Klopp’s final record will have no bearing
Klopp lost seven straight finals before steering Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2019. Since then the Reds have won the Club World Cup and the Premier League.
Klopp has helped the Reds break far more pivotal droughts than his prior poor run in showpiece contests. Liverpool’s 2016 League Cup and Europa League final losses and the Champions League defeat in 2018 were all part of a sustained building process.
The trophies and glory that followed cemented Klopp’s era of success, and lifted weight off both manager and club.
Tuchel trusts in big-game mentality
Chelsea’s defensive prowess under Tuchel has turned the Blues into bona fide cup specialists. The Champions League holders have already added the European Super Cup and Club World Cup titles to their trophy haul this term.
Covid, injuries and inconsistency have blighted their league ambitions but the Blues’ abilities in cup competitions stem from a miserly tactical blueprint that so often squeezes opponents.
Liverpool will test that to the extreme on Sunday, but the same was said of Manchester City in last season’s Champions League final, and yet Tuchel’s men still prevailed.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication