I’ve said it before and ahead of tomorrow’s League Cup final showdown with Manchester City, I’ll put a little more emphasis on it when I say it again — for me, this football club exists to win trophies.
Maybe in the modern game it’s more important to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League rather than take home a domestic cup, but I’ll pick a shiny hunk of silver for the cabinet each and every time. We have that familiar feeling again; the only thing that rivals the anxiety of anticipation before kick-off is the flood of emotions that comes at the final whistle. This isn’t our first rodeo; we know well enough it can just as easily end in ecstasy as it can despair.
“I don’t know what [winning the cup] will mean to me – we will see afterwards,” mused Reds boss Jurgen Klopp in the build-up to the meeting with the Citizens. “But this job in professional football, we do it only to win things: titles, cups, whatever,” he continued, tapping perfectly into the mindset of Kopites around the world. “A lot of players and managers work their whole life and can be really successful but don’t have the chance to win anything, that’s how it is sometimes,” continued the German boss, before adding, “After a very short time, we have the chance.”
Liverpool’s last piece of silverware came via this competition and you’ll hear few complaints if it’s how we win the next one. For once, Klopp will have the luxury of having an almost fully fit squad to choose from with the massive fitness problems that came along with his early days in charge of the Anfield outfit mostly behind them, but he’s made it abundantly clear that he’ll leave the usual suspects on the sidelines if they don’t have a place in his game plan.
It’s expected that the German will name a very similar side to the one that ran out narrow winners over FC Augsburg in the Europa League on Thursday, with the trio of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino leading the attack, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can running things in the middle of the park, Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno flanking Mamadou Sakho in the heart of the defence and Simon Mignolet between the sticks — flip a coin for who joins in at the back and in midfield.
Maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong, but regardless of who runs out at Wembley, the tempo needs to be upped all over the park with the poor display we put in against the Fuggerstädter well short of the kind of performance we’ll need to overcome our Northwest rivals.
“I have the chance to win three titles [before leaving],” said City boss Manuel Pellegrini with the Chilean set to leave the Etihad at the end of the season. “The most important thing is not just to win the titles, it’s the style in which we win those titles,” he continued, having overseen a classy 3-1 win over Ukrainian side Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League last week. “We scored the most goals in the three seasons I have been here and I am sure fans know those things. They enjoy every time we play in the correct way, so it is important to win but in the correct style.”
The Citizens, of course, have the personnel to do just that, but they’ve matched us quite readily in the inconsistency department as of late. Heading into the win over Kiev, they’d lost three on the hop — including am embarrassing 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea as they took an early exit from the FA Cup. With that being said, even with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph on the long-term injury list, Pellegrini’s side has quality so deep it borders on unfair — a far cry from the MCFC OK days.
Club captain Vincent Kompany should be fit enough for a place in the starting eleven after coming through the Champions League clash unscathed, Anfield transplant Raheem Sterling could face his old club, Jesus Navas is back in contention after recovering from a hamstring injury just in time for the final, Sergio Aguero is almost certain to lead the line with David Silva for company and Yaya Toure may be pitted against brother and former teammate in Liverpool defender Kolo Toure while Willy Caballero has been widely tipped to replace Joe Hart in goal with Pellegrini seemingly intent on keeping the Argentine on domestic cup duty despite his shocking display at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
The Citizens may see this trophy as just one in a possible treble on offer, but for Liverpool, lifting the League Cup could be a springboard for things to come and a guarantee of European football at Anfield next season with Klopp’s reign on Merseyside truly yet to start in earnest. High stakes of course, but the future and the nonsense that comes with it doesn’t matter right now though — there’s a cup to won and a team in blue that needs reminding why we affectionately refer to this stadium as “Anfield South”.