Liverpool will be looking to win their first League Cup in ten years as they take on Chelsea at Wembley this afternoon, having last won the trophy in 2012.
Since being appointed as Reds manager in 2015, Jurgen Klopp has won four major honours, adding the Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup to his CV, but is yet to win a domestic cup in England.
Whilst the Merseyside outfit are still very much in the hunt for their second Premier League title in three years, their immediate focus will be on winning their first trophy of the campaign, with Chelsea already winning both the Super Cup and Club World Cup this term.
Going into the showpiece fixture, Liverpool have the majority of their squad available with the fitness of striker Diogo Jota still not fully known after the Portuguese missed the Reds’ recent league home games against Norwich City and Leeds United.
On the 25-year-old’s fitness, Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders said on Friday: “Jota, so far no reaction on the things he did, so the straight-line running, the changes of direction and the ball work he did, so that’s a good sign. He isn’t ruled out but still it will be a challenge.”
Assuming he’s fit, Klopp must play Jota in order to significantly boost Liverpool’s chances of overcoming Chelsea after the Portugal international’s excellent campaign thus far.
The former-Wolves star has seriously improved this campaign having swapped Molineux for Anfield in September 2020 for a rumoured £41m. His first campaign was solid, scoring 13 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions. However, this season has been a serious improvement.
Already, the striker has played and scored more than last term, netting 17 goals in 32 appearances for the Reds and is their second top-scorer behind Mohamed Salah who has already found the back of the net on 27 occasions. Based on that, he will be hugely important if they are to bring the cup back to Merseyside.
Following Jota’s first training session, Ljinders hailed Liverpool’s then-new signing, stating: “He has so much future in the game and he will have a great pathway inside our club. He’s like a pressing monster, so he will fit in straight away.”
This is the sort of firepower Klopp needs in his side, especially in a cup final, with alternative option Luis Diaz still finding his feet at Anfield despite an impressive start following his £37m move from Portuguese outfit FC Porto last month.
The 25-year-old Columbian has made five appearances for his new side thus far, scoring in the 3-1 league win against Norwich but has started in Jota’s absence, with winger Sadio Mané being deployed as the striker.
Having Mané centrally arguably hinders the Senegalese’s ability, with the 29-year-old possessing excellent pace and skill, perfect for wing play. However, the forward scored three goals against Norwich and Leeds from centre-forward, although the quality of opposition could be argued.
There is no doubt that both Salah and Mané will start the final, the question is whether or not Jota is fit which will seemingly impact whether or not Diaz starts at the national stadium.
The two Premier League titans have already played their league fixtures against each other this season, with both outings ending in draws, therefore the German will have to find a slight alternative this time around to ensure his side are victorious and take home the trophy.
Even if there is a slight chance that Jota will be fit to start, Klopp should give his striker the nod. Regardless, if the 25-year-old isn’t ready to start, he’ll certainly be an excellent option to introduce from the bench.