Chelsea and Liverpool will meet in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday to decide who wins the first domestic trophy of 2022.
Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp have both been crowned European champions with their respective sides, but neither has won a cup in English football.
Chelsea last won the competition in 2015 but it is a decade since Liverpool got their hands on the prize.
There will also be a different name on the trophy for the first time since 2017.
That is because Manchester City have won the competition for the past four years – beating Chelsea on penalties in the 2019 final – but were knocked out this season in the fourth round by West Ham.
This is the first of four potential trophies Liverpool could win this season, after closing the gap on Premier League leaders City to three points and progressing in the Champions League and FA Cup.
“It’s second time for me in this competition and I have lost so many endings in my life, but the few I won and the ones I lost didn’t hold me back to try again,” Liverpool boss Klopp told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“We realized how big it is during the ride – each round we made, it was always really, really nice.
“If we could win it then it will be a proper trophy for the whole club because we used players from the under-18s, under-23s and it makes a really nice journey and a really nice story and I hope we can bring it back and celebrate it with the academy.
“In 20 years if you want to talk about this team, I would not be surprised if people would then say if we don’t win anything any more, ‘yeah they were good, but they should have won more’.
“That’s why we should try now to win a few things. And the next chance, the best chance we have this weekend, is against Chelsea when it’s really tricky.”
But Champions League holders Chelsea could complete an early hat-trick of titles this season too, having already lifted the European Super Cup and Club World Cup.
A tale of two goalkeepers
Klopp has already put his faith in back-up goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who is expected to replace first-choice Alisson Becker for the final.
The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland international has played the majority of Liverpool’s games in the competition this season and kept a clean sheet in the semi-final second-leg win over Arsenal.
“Kelleher is a really good example,” said Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders. “Him reaching the end, it shows that there’s an inside path for young goalkeepers at the club.
“A compliment for the goalkeeper department, that is what I like. It’s possible a young keeper can make the final, it’s nice to see.”
Chelsea have their own goalkeeping conundrum, with Kepa Arrizabalaga playing in every round so far instead of Blues number one Edouard Mendy.
Tuchel says the Spaniard “absolutely deserves” to start the final but would not confirm whether that will happen at Wembley.
“This is very easy to say – Kepa absolutely deserves to play and I also cannot get sentimental about it,” added the German. “I have to do what in the end is, in my opinion, the very best solution for the team.
“I know that this position is a very sensitive position. If Kepa was a player in the other 10 positions we would not have these discussions, we would just be full of praise and he would feel that praise in minutes on the pitch.”
Will Reds end 10-year wait for domestic cup?
The Carabao Cup may not have been high on Liverpool’s agenda in the past decade but it remains surprising to learn they have not won a domestic cup since 2012.
Kenny Dalglish led the Reds to a League Cup triumph at Wembley that year, beating Cardiff City on penalties.
Martin Skrtel leveled after Joe Mason had opened the scoring for the Bluebirds, with Cardiff’s Ben Turner than canceling out Dirk Kuyt’s goal in extra time to take the final to a spot-kick shootout.
Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam both missed penalties but, with Cardiff failing with three of their own, Liverpool claimed success after Kuyt, man-of-the-match Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson all converted.
The Reds lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup final later that year and were beaten on penalties by Manchester City in the League Cup in 2016, with this their first final since then.
They have, of course, been busy winning other trophies.
Klopp led the Merseyside outfit to Champions League glory in 2019, won the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup and followed up by Liverpool’s first Premier League title in 2020.
Can this be Lukaku’s moment?
Tuchel has said it is not “not the time to laugh” about out-of-form striker Romelu Lukaku and left the club’s record £97.5m summer signing on the bench during Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Lille in the Champions League in midweek.
However, the suggestion was the German wanted to take the Belgian forward out of the firing line rather than rest the 28-year-old for Saturday’s showdown at Wembley.
Lukaku played 90 minutes in both legs of the semi-final win over Tottenham last month although he did not score or assist in either.
The frontman has netted 10 times in 28 games in all competitions since making his return to Stamford Bridge, scoring in both Chelsea’s games as they won the Club World Cup earlier this month and in a 5-1 FA Cup third-round route from Chesterfield.
But Lukaku is yet to hit the target in the Premier League in 2022, and his last game under Tuchel has become infamous for only making seven touches in 90 minutes during a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, one of which was from the kick- off.
“I’ve played a lot of matches,” Tuchel said. “We had a similar situation with Jorginho, one of our captains, because we feel he’s a little mentally tired. The focus is on Romelu, that I understand, but it’s a similar situation as Jorginho.
“The decisions are made clear and the players accept. Once you play for Chelsea, you accept the team goes first and that’s why there are no hard feelings, not from Romelu or from me.”
‘I was dreaming of doing this at school’
Trent Alexander-Arnold was 13 the last time Liverpool won a domestic cup and the Reds right-back says he used to dream of winning silverware at Wembley while he was at school.
“It’ll be an exciting game for the whole club,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It’s always a good day out when you go down to Wembley and to be able to celebrate with the fans and be part of it with them. So it’s important for us to go there and try to win it.
“We’ve performed really well, we’ve rotated, we’ve had different teams, young lads, senior players that have mixed and matched this season in this competition, but I think on Sunday it will be a strong squad to go out there and win it.
“We have won our own trophies as a team, but yes we’re still to win domestic cup competitions – our motivation is to go and win it and write another chapter in our history.”
Alexander-Arnold sees no reason why Liverpool cannot win all four trophies this season.
“The emphasis is on all four competitions and go as far as we can,” he added. “In our minds we don’t see any reason why we can’t win all four, to be honest.
“I was dreaming of doing this in 2012 at school. I never thought I would be in this position but I’ve been very lucky and fortunate so far. I’ve been blessed with the path that I have been put on.
“I always feel there is a buzz around this time of the season, for me especially. I enjoy these big games, the ones you need to win. The ones that are either going to win you trophies or lose you trophies. These are the games we want to be playing in.”
Pick your cup final teams
Choose your Chelsea formation and starting line-up. It’s up to you how to approach it – you could go for the team you WANT the boss to pick or the one you THINK he will.
Choose your Liverpool formation and starting line-up. It’s up to you how to approach it – you could go for the team you WANT the boss to pick or the one you THINK he will.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.