It all comes down to this…
Liverpool’s Capital One Cup Campaign:
- Carlisle United at Anfield. Won 3-2 on Pens following a 1-1 draw. BRR*
- Bournemouth at Anfield. Won 1-0.
- Southampton at St. Mary’s. Won 6-1.
- Stoke City at The Brittania. Won 1-0.
Stoke’s Capital One Cup Campaign:
- Luton Town at Kenilworth Road. Won 8-7 on Pens following a 1-1 draw.
- Fulham at Craven Cottage. Won 1-0.
- Chelsea at The Brittania. Won 5-4 on Pens following a 1-1 draw.
- Sheffield Wednesday at The Brittania. Won 2-0.
- Liverpool at The Brittania. Lost 1-0.
So now Liverpool face Stoke City for the 2nd leg with Wembley on the horizon. A cup final. A trophy is tantalisingly close. A first for Klopp or Hughes. A first for most of the players on either team.
Stoke will be throwing everything at this. They chucked their last league game away to Leicester, allegedly, going down 3-0 at the King Power Stadium, with one eye firmly on a rare Wembley final. They haven’t won this trophy since 1972. That’s before I was alive, and I’m old.
Stoke lost Ryan Shawcross to injury on Saturday, but that could have been precautionary with this match in mind. If not, that’s a huge blow to the Potters. Bojan spent the game on the bench, while Arnautovic was not in the match day squad, although I believe he will be able to play some part at Anfield (don’t be surprised if he mimics Lazarus and starts the game). Stoke will do all they can to get Shaqiri, Bojan and Arnautovic on the pitch at the same time, as on their day they can pick apart the best defences.
Speaking of which, Jurgen Klopp must decide what he can do to improve a defence that
chucked in conceded four away to Norwich last Saturday. His options are limited with no sign of Skrtel returning. Lovren has only just completed one training session in three weeks, and is likely to take a place on the bench. Therefore he may well have to place his faith with Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho once more. Clyne is a major doubt with a knee injury so the returning hero Jon Flanagan ready to step in if required for his first senior start since 1854 (ish).
Klopp will be praying to all known deities that Simon Mignolet manages to save a shot or two on target, as the Belgian ‘keeper’ (I use the term loosely) has conceded 5 goals from the last 6 shots on target he has faced. Now I’m no expert, but doesn’t that make you just another outfield player? If a goalkeeper can’t save shots, is he not just a regular player stood in the goals? Somehow I can’t see this finishing 0-0.
The bright side for Liverpool has been the form of Roberto Firmino who has 4 goals to his name in the last 3 games, with a brace against both Arsenal and Norwich City. Allied to this is the fact that they have scored 8 goals in their last 3 matches, Klopp may well decide to take a ‘we’ll score more than you’ approach to this match…and pray. You suspect he won’t be alone in praying at Anfield on Tuesday night.
The winners will face either Everton or Manchester City at Wembley. It could be the first all Merseyside final since 1989, a time when they were almost an annual event. It could be the first league cup final for Stoke City for 44 years. For either team, there’s a lot riding on the match on Tuesday night.
(BRR* = Brendan Rodgers Reign)