Preview: Chelsea vs. Liverpool 

Preview: Chelsea vs. Liverpool 

Potentially only 90 minutes away from winning a record-breaking ninth EFL Cup crown, Liverpool journey south to renew hostilities with Chelsea in the EFL Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

The Reds overcame Arsenal over two legs in the semi-final to book their Wembley tickets, while Thomas Tuchel’s side ended Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of glory in the final four.

A sixth EFL Cup crown does not have quite as nice a ring to it as European champions or world champions, but for Chelsea, a priceless piece of mid-season silverware could very well act as the catalyst for a haul of future success in the spring months.

With the Premier League title slipping further and further away from Thomas Tuchel’s men, a domestic and continental treble is still on the cards, and a six-game winning run in all tournaments sets the Blues up nicely for a February Wembley showdown.

Chelsea’s defensive solidity came to the fore as they sunk former manager Antonio Conte and his Tottenham side 3-0 over two legs in the semi-finals, and they were forced to rely on similar staunch rearguard action to overcome Lille 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 battle in midweek.

Furthermore, Chelsea have only shipped two goals in their six-game winning run amid uncertainty surrounding the futures of several of their defenders, all of whom have contributed to the Blues keeping three successive EFL Cup clean sheets on their route to Wembley.

The European champions’ ninth EFL Cup final is made all the more impressive given that they have only faced Premier League opposition in the tournament this season, but their last appearance in the showpiece event ended in defeat to Manchester City in 2019, and Liverpool are nothing if not ruthless.

A six-game winning streak is nothing to be sniffed at by any means, but Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool had a different number six in mind when Leeds United paid a visit to the Anfield fortress, as Marcelo Bielsa’s side capitulated on the Merseyside turf.

Mohamed Salah’s brace, Sadio Mane’s double, Joel Matip’s mazy run and finish and Virgil van Dijk’s bullet header moved Liverpool to within touching distance of Premier League leaders Manchester City, and hopes of an unprecedented quadruple are still very much alive.

Morale was not at its maximum when the Reds were held to a goalless draw by Arsenal’s 10 men in the first leg of their semi-final, but Diogo Jota inspired his side to victory at the Emirates, and Liverpool will now contest their record-extending 13th EFL Cup final.

A spate of Manchester City dominance means that the two giants both sit at the top of the charts on eight EFL Cup wins apiece, but it has been a decade since Liverpool last lifted the domestic crown – defeating Cardiff City on penalties in the 2011-12 final.

Early exits have bedevilled Klopp’s crop since then – although the German manager is not exactly renowned for his undying love for the competition – but having won each of their last nine in all tournaments, Liverpool will not turn their nose up to a record-breaking trophy.

Both Premier League fixtures between Chelsea and Liverpool this term ended with the spoils shared, and the two sides have met once before in the EFL Cup final, where Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman contributed to a 3-2 Chelsea win after extra time in the 2004-05 edition.

Chelsea EFL Cup form:
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Chelsea form (all competitions):
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Liverpool EFL Cup form:
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Liverpool form (all competitions):
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We say: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
Even without the presence of Jota or Firmino in the number nine position, Liverpool’s potent attackers are simply too good to ignore, with Salah in the form of his life, Diaz making a huge early impression and Africa Cup of Nations champion Mane knowing what it takes to hold his nerve on the big occasion.

Chelsea have defied the odds before, but even their sturdy backline will have a hard time trying to quell Klopp’s well-oiled machine, and we can only envisage the Reds getting their hands on the cup for the ninth time.

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