There’s no better way to prepare for a major cup final than hitting your opponents for six in your prior engagement. And that’s exactly what Liverpool did on Wednesday evening – blasting half-a-dozen goals past Leeds United without reply at Anfield, and sending a clear message to Chelsea ahead of Sunday’s EFL Cup final.
One of the most audible battle cries has come from Sadio Mane, who – perhaps fearing for his first team place given the form of Diogo Jota and the signing of Luis Diaz – has kicked on and rediscovered his previous highs.
The Senegalese ace was at the double against Leeds, scoring twice in the last ten minutes to serve a timely reminder of his talents. Intriguingly, he did that while playing through the middle – could Klopp have found a new role for his hard-working forward?
Both of Mane’s goals were typical poacher’s finishes, while Mo Salah bagged a brace from the penalty spot as the Reds tore their opponents to shreds with three goals in the opening half hour.
Central defensive duo Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk also both got on the scoresheet – the former with a sublime finish in the first half, and the latter with a trademark header.
All roads now lead to Wembley for Sunday’s final….will Liverpool hoist their first trophy of the season?
Liverpool Team News
It’s a case of decisions, decisions for Klopp.
All of his squad will naturally want to play in a Wembley cup final, and it seems only Bobby Firmino – he has a muscle injury – is a definite absentee.
Jota has been battling with an ankle injury, but is responding well to treatment according to reports and the Reds are ‘optimistic’ he will be fit to play a part.
Getting the balance right in midfield will be Klopp’s next consideration, and he may just opt for the energy of Naby Keita alongside Fabinho and Jordan Henderson – Thiago would, naturally, be unlucky to miss out.
The defence picks itself of course, with Matip’s experience likely to be favoured over Ibrahima Konate’s physicality, and Klopp will be hoping his strongest available side will have enough to see off Chelsea on the big stage.
A 2-0 win over Lille on Tuesday evening has given Chelsea a major boost in their quest to defend their Champions League trophy.
It was timely too, given that the Blues haven’t been at their fluent best in the Premier League. Romelu Lukaku has been woefully out of form, while the likes of Reece James, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi are battling injuries.
Chelsea have, in their rear view mirror, a defeat to Manchester City, dropped points against Brighton (twice) and a somewhat fortunate win over Crystal Palace, where Hakim Ziyech’s 89th minute goal was enough to separate the sides.
Thomas Tuchel is a canny operator, and Chelsea have previous in one-off knockout games having won the Champions League last term. But do Liverpool go into this game as favourites?
Liverpool vs Chelsea Betting Tips
The bookmakers certainly believe that Liverpool are the more likely winner, and the Reds are as short as 5/4 with some firms to win this game inside 90 minutes – a best price of 7/5 is available.
They do go into this game in better heart, arguably, although the fear is that Thomas Tuchel has – by and large – seemed to have the tactical edge over Klopp. He won their first meeting on English soil 1-0, and the subsequent pair of encounters have been drawn 1-1 and 2-1.
These are two incredibly evenly-matched sides, and backing either is fraught with risk – so much so that the draw at odds of 23/10 perhaps has some value to it. If you were of a mind to, you could Dutch Liverpool to win by one goal and Chelsea to prevail by the same margin at 11/4 and 4/1 respectively.
It generally goes against the grain for a cup final to be a goal-fest, and yet if we combine the last ten EFL Cup and FA Cup finals we note that just 7/20 have gone under the 2.5 Goals line – as such, there’s perhaps legs in backing the ‘overs’ at 5/4.
And cometh the hour, cometh the man. We’ve written about a possible renaissance in Mane’s game with added competition for places, and you may recall he netted in the Champions League final in 2018. A man for the big occasion, you can back Mane to find the net anytime at 14/5.