Our last major piece of silverware came via the League Cup when Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool downed then Championship outfit Cardiff City at Wembley back in 2012 and should it end up being the first trophy that Jurgen Klopp claims since taking over the Reds, you won’t hear any complaints coming out of Anfield.
For the time being that’s neither here nor now with a long road to the final still ahead and a tricky quarter-final meeting away to Southampton standing very much in the middle of it. While Ronald Koeman’s side is sure to offer a stiff test, playing on the South Coast could very well turn out to be an advantage for Liverpool with the Reds in the unusual habit of playing better when they’re away from Anfield.
Naming a strong line-up won’t hurt their chances of sealing a spot in the semi-finals either and Klopp hasn’t made any secret of his intention to do just that. Club captain Jordan Henderson made a much awaited return to action at the weekend, playing just over a half hour as the Reds scraped past Swansea City and he was joined by Daniel Sturridge for the last 20-minutes as they both made their first appearances under their new boss. While neither is likely to start from the off, both are expected to be named in the squad along with Philippe Coutinho after the manager confirmed the Brazilian playmaker should be over the hamstring problem that has seen him sit out Liverpool’s last two outings.
Despite giving under fire goalkeeper Simon Mignolet a vote of confidence in his pre-match press call, his understudy in Adam Bogdan could be given a shot between the sticks with the Hungarian shot-stopper doing quite well in the earlier rounds of the competition. In front of him, Martin Skrtel could be in for a rest with Kolo Toure drafted into the starting eleven and Joe Allen could feature as a deep lying midfielder to shake things up a bit and give a few key players some much needed time out.
Highly rated defender Jose Fonte is a doubt for Southampton after picking up a knock in the 3-1 loss to Manchester City at the weekend meaning that Steven Caulker is likely to fill in for the Portuguese center-back. Jay Rodriguez remains sidelined with a foot problem, but Koeman will have Shane Long, who scored against the Citizens, and will be able welcome Graziano Pelle back into the starting eleven after the Italian sat out the trip to the Etihad through suspension. As per usual, the match will almost be certainly won in the middle of the park with Victor Wanyama and Oriol Romeu crucial to counteracting the Reds high-pressing style.
While a number of the “bigger” teams tend to use this competition as a way to blood youngsters and give fringe players a shot at first team football, the Dutchman will almost certainly name his strongest possible side; Liverpool may be scornful of spending the better part of four years without a new piece of silverware, but the Saints will have to look all the way back to 1976 to find the last time they had to open the trophy cabinet. Couple the obvious desire to win at Wembley with a guaranteed Europa League spot for the winner and lifting the League Cup looks like an even more attractive proposition.
Of course just the satisfaction of putting one over on the Anfield outfit, who have cherry picked a number of players from Southampton the past two summers, may be enough of a motivation — I’m sure the sellout crowd at St. Mary’s on Wednesday would settle for that for the time being. With the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal already out of the competition, for Liverpool, this represents as good an opportunity as ever to go on and win it for the ninth time. Then again, the same goes for everyone else still vying for the title, so what do I know?