Friday, February 23, 2024

EFL (Carabao) Cup Final

This week’s Premier League schedule is overshadowed by a cup championship. Liverpool and Chelsea face off on Sunday in the final of the EFL Cup. Manager Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have had Chelsea’s number in recent finals between the clubs. The Reds prevailed over the Blues in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup, the 2022 EFL Cup and the 2022 FA Cup. Chelsea Manager Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, has never won a title of any sort in England and his accomplishment in winning Ligue 1 with PSG is less than impressive given the Paris club’s historic dominance in its domestic league. The Argentine manager’s current project at Chelsea has shown some recent improvement with the Blues having drawn with Manchester City at the Etihad in their last outing, the second time this season that Chelsea has drawn with the defending champions. Chelsea’s inconsistent form this season, however, includes a 4-1 whipping at Liverpool at the end of January.

Liverpool increased its current lead in the Premier League title race to four points over Manchester City with a midweek 4-1 thrashing of Luton Town. The Reds, however, are battling injury concerns entering Sunday’s final at Chelsea. Forward Diogo Jota, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, midfielder Curtis Jones and goalkeeper Allison are definitely out. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez are questionable. Salah is reportedly suffering fatigue after his recent return from a lengthy hamstring injury. Nunez suffered a knock versus Brentford. The potential absence of Salah and Nunez could finally slow the Liverpool scoring machine. Defender Thiago Silva could be back available for Chelsea though young center backs Axel Disasi and Levi Colwill played just fine without him against Manchester City. Malo Gusto, meanwhile, has made major strides in ably stepping in for Chelsea’s perpetually injured right back Reese James. A win by underdog Chelsea on Sunday would be a major boost for Pochettino and much criticized Chelsea ownership.

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