Just 8 teams remain in this season’s EFL Cup, and Liverpool count themselves among those 8. A quarter-final match with Leeds United at Anfield awaits on Tuesday, November 29th, and Liverpool will look to head into the semi-finals of this competition for the 3rd time in as many seasons. Having lost to Manchester City in the final last season, Liverpool will hope for a better result in 2016-17.
With Leeds United coming to Anfield, Liverpool will likely not have to face the question of whether or not they should field a top side to try to advance. No match can be taken for granted, but Liverpool’s bench has enough talent in it to defeat Leeds at home, or at least they should. And with Daniel Sturridge likely leading the line as he has in the past few EFL Cup matches, the firepower will be there to advance for the Reds. But with Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham, and Southampton all still left in the tournament, the semi-finals will bring a challenge no matter who Liverpool draw.
The League Cup has always been a cut-rate competition. It has been referred to as a “Mickey Mouse Cup” on several occasions. And sadly, it is the last trophy Liverpool have collected. In 2012, Liverpool defeated Cardiff City on penalties to win their 8th League Cup, the most of any club in the competition.
This season, Liverpool have looked like potential title challengers. Sitting just 1 point off the top of the table, the Reds have ridden their high-flying attack on their way to a tie for 2nd in the Premier League table. Most importantly for the Reds this season is securing a Champions League position and perhaps mounting a title challenge for the first time since the 2013-14 season. But who can turn down the possibility of a trophy, even if it is somewhat looked down upon? Jurgen Klopp has built a solid team at Liverpool, but he will look to bolster the depth at certain positions in January. Particularly along the back line, where Liverpool’s star centre back from last season has fallen out of favor, and their best left back this season is a central midfielder, Jürgen Klopp will almost certainly look to bolster the ranks during the January transfer window.
With the first and second legs of the semi-finals scheduled to be played in January, the Reds may not have any new signings at their disposal. And even if they did, starting new boys in a semi-final round before they have enough training time could be dangerous. Klopp will face questions about his starting line-up and we will see how badly he wants to win this cup. Last year’s decision was a bit easier, as Liverpool were deeper in the table, and the prospect of winning trophies in his first season looked a lot more appealing. But if Liverpool remain at or near the top heading into the new year, the question will become even more difficult.
I, for one, would absolutely love to see Liverpool win a trophy again, more as a symbolic announcement that we are back. We are here to collect trophies again. But at the same time, I understand the importance of making Champions League and that being top priority this season. The fortunate thing about having Jürgen Klopp is that he can take what appears to be a talent-deficient squad and make them compete at a much higher level than one would expect. Perhaps Klopp continues to field his 2nd-best squad for this tournament until the final. Who wouldn’t love to see Liverpool win a trophy at Wembley again? After all, it is “Anfield South” for a reason.
Written by Ian West