EFL Cup Final Preview

The first showpiece final of the English Football season is upon us this Sunday with the EFL Cup Final taking place at the iconic Wembley Stadium between Chelsea and Liverpool.

92 teams started the competition back at the start of the season and we are left with two Premier League giants battling it out for the first silverware of the season. In the past, there have been a few surprise finalists, with the likes of Sunderland, Bradford, Cardiff, Birmingham and Wigan amongst the teams to have made it in the last twenty years. The competition has been dominated, much like most of English Football, by Manchester City of late, as they have won six of the last ten finals. Last season it was also an all-Premier League affair as Manchester United managed their first win since 2010, getting the better of Newcastle United. 

Both teams have their own reasons for wanting to win this competition and a first piece of silverware can take the pressure off somewhat for the rest of the season. At least the winning manager can say he has won a trophy, no matter what happens in the final months of the season. Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino will be disappointed by how the season has gone so far, with his expensively assembled squad still struggling in mid table and nowhere near European qualification. A win on Sunday would not only give him a much needed trophy but also be a way to qualify for Europe for next season. Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, will want to end his tenure as Liverpool manager with a trophy or two and he knows this is a good opportunity to add to his and Liverpool’s trophy cabinet. 

The Managers

It must be said that looking at the manager’s record, the advantage is firmly in Liverpool’s hands as Jurgen Klopp has the better record against Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentinian has only won one meeting out of thirteen against his German rival whereas Klopp has seven wins. They have met once more in a final, where Klopp’s Liverpool defeated Pochettino’s Tottenham in the Champions League final.

Current Form

Chelsea have a poor recent record at Wembley and their fans will be hoping for a change in fortune this time around. The London team have lost their last five visits to the iconic stadium, the most recent one being the 2021/22 season when Liverpool twice knocked them out of cups on penalty shootouts. Chelsea are yet to find the right balance this season, with many players coming in and out of the team. They have certainly lacked an out and out goalscorer and their wingers have been inconsistent. They have also missed one of their more important players, Reece James, who has been injured for much of the season. On the positive side, the return of Ben Chilwell has been a relief, as has the form of Conor Gallagher and one signing that has certainly worked out is Cole Palmer, the forward who signed from Manchester City has been involved in most of the positive moments in Chelsea’s season so far. 

Liverpool are still in the hunt for a historic quadruple, something that would make Klopp’s final season on Merseyside even more memorable. However, they can only take things one game at a time and one competition at a time and all focus must be on this final against a tricky opponent. Victory here could push them on to better things as they are performing well in the league and in the Europa League too. Liverpool will go into this with fond memories of their last final, where they edged out Chelsea in a penalty shootout in 2022 and they will look to add their name to the trophy again. They have won this competition nine times already, so another win would bring that up to ten, two clear of Manchester City who have eight wins and a further two ahead of Manchester United. One concern for Liverpool going into this match is their ever growing injury list, Salah, Szoboszlai and Nunez are all doubtful as well as the confirmed list of missing players which includes Trent Alexander Arnold, Alisson and Diogo Jota. 

Liverpool are currently favourites to win the match, unsurprisingly given their overall form this season when compared to Chelsea’s lacklustre results so far. Both teams can point to the long list of injured players but the reason that the bigger teams have such large squads is so that they can compete in multiple competitions. 

Liverpool go into this match in better form as they have won four of the last five matches and are currently top of the Premier League. Chelsea have two wins from the last five but they did manage a respectable away point at Manchester City last weekend. The Blues are currently in tenth place. Over recent years there has been very little to choose between these two teams with many matches finishing as draws. Liverpool have four wins from the last ten, with two of those being via a penalty shootout, whereas Chelsea have just the one win in the last ten. The last meeting between the two was a comprehensive 4-1 win for Liverpool at the end of January. 

The EFL Cup might not have the prestige of the FA Cup or the financial reward of the Premier League or Champions League but it is a competition loved by many fans of English Football. There have been some iconic moments, some memorable finals and some surprise results over the years and we hope for another high quality match on Sunday with the winner lifting the first piece of domestic silverware of the season. 

Last Updated: 23.02.2024