Soccer

Familiar foes Liverpool and Chelsea to renew rivalry in Carabao Cup final

Liverpool and Chelsea will meet for the 18th time since September 2018 when they go head to head at Wembley on Sunday.

Sunday’s Carabao Cup final is a repeat of two years ago
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson celebrates with the League Cup at Wembley Sunday’s Carabao Cup final is a repeat of two years ago (Nick Potts/PA)

Familiarity, so the saying goes, breeds contempt, but for Liverpool and Chelsea it has resulted in a war of attrition.

The two teams have met 17 times since September 2018 and, on the three occasions those have been finals, each one has gone to penalties, with Liverpool victorious in all three.

And, while Sunday’s reunion at Wembley is a repeat of the 2022 Carabao Cup final, which had an epic shoot-out settled by Reds goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher scoring his side’s 11th attempt and Kepa Arrizabalaga missing his, there are few similarities with that afternoon.

Injuries and key departures mean Liverpool, the record nine-time winners, will be able to field just five of the starting XI from that day; Chelsea can put out just two after a huge churn of players during a billion-pound spending spree in the interim.

The final represents the first moment of significance in Jurgen Klopp’s long goodbye after his decision to step down at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have burned through three managers in Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard before giving Mauricio Pochettino the chance to arrest their gradual decline.

And it has been a decline.

When the pair met two years ago Liverpool were second in the Premier League table, chasing Manchester City in a brilliant title race which they lost by a point despite racking up 92 of them, while Chelsea were third, albeit 10 points behind.

But, despite their recent upturn in form, this time the Stamford Bridge side are 22 points adrift of the table-topping Reds in 10th.

Liverpool, competing on four fronts, are favourites, having lost just twice to domestic opponents, and, last month’s blip at Arsenal aside, Klopp has restored his squad’s competitiveness, even if they are not quite hitting the heights of that 2021/22 season.

In-form Liverpool forward Diogo Jota is the latest player to be ruled out of the final with injury
Liverpool’s Diogo Jota lies injured In-form Liverpool forward Diogo Jota is the latest player to be ruled out of the final with injury (John Walton/PA)

However, injuries have hit at the wrong time, with influential players like full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, forward Diogo Jota, midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai and goalkeeper Alisson Becker already ruled out of the showpiece.

That may be just the opening Chelsea need after they were ripped apart 4-1 at Anfield barely a month ago.

There followed a 4-2 home defeat to Wolves four days later, after which they became one of the few teams to win at Villa Park while earning a creditable draw at Manchester City last weekend.

They appear to have played themselves into some form and Pochettino will look to build on that as he seeks to redress the balance against Klopp, against whom he has won just once in 12 meetings, and gain a small measure of revenge for the Champions League final defeat in Madrid in 2019 as Tottenham manager.

The Argentinian is desperate to end his trophy drought with English clubs in his seventh season in the country and silence some of the critics who are just starting to question his credentials again, having failed to spark a revival at Stamford Bridge, despite the massive investment in the playing squad.

That January Anfield defeat ended a run of seven successive draws between the two sides and, with all factors considered, that points to another close Wembley encounter – and possibly penalties yet again.