There’s much to play for as Klopp’s send-off heads to Wembley
Getty: Daniel Chesterton/Offside

Each and every game that is making up the last chapter of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool is being savoured by the red half of Merseyside who have long been in awe of the club’s charismatic manager.

Yet this weekend offers an occasion to truly kickstart a memorable farewell for the departing German by claiming silverware at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

Liverpool remain present in every competition they entered this season: possessing a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, considered strong favourites in the Europa League and face Southampton next week for a place in the FA Cup quarter finals.

The possibilities before the curtain comes down on this campaign — and reign — are numerous, and clinching a club-record tenth League Cup would be as good a way as any to increase the fervour at a club both unsure of the future and yet in thrall of the present.

There is the chance that Klopp may guide Liverpool back to Wembley in the FA Cup later in the campaign, but the trip down to the national stadium for Sunday’s showpiece in the second domestic cup competition will no doubt be a special journey for a manager who does mix sentimentality with hard-headedness.

During his nine-season tenure, Klopp has taken Liverpool to Wembley when trophies have been at stake on five occasions and has emerged victorious twice. This weekend they face the team defeated on both of those occasions (Chelsea) during the 2021/22 season.

External concerns had been raised that Klopp’s announcement would impact Liverpool’s season. However, such a drop-off has not come to fruition. Instead they have won five and lost just one of the subsequent games.

Minds in the dressing room may have been sharpened by Klopp’s impending departure; even though elite performers rarely lack for motivation, there is clearly an extra incentive at play for these next few months.

Pepijn Lijnders, Klopp’s assistant, who will also be leaving at the end of the season, praised how the mentality of the group has remained strong and the players have continued to put together a so far impressive campaign.

Getty: Clive Brunskill
Getty: Clive Brunskill

I think you underestimate our squad, the personalities in it,” he said. “They have been through a lot already, in recent history but also how they grew up; a lot of these boys had to show character from a young age — not everything went easy for them.

“A lot of us get a lot of criticism but we grow with this, it only feeds us. All these boys know how to deal with it. A lot of these boys didn’t win anything with Liverpool yet so of course they give everything despite the manager saying he is leaving.

“We are stable enough to deal with it. That’s what I thought before — but you never know. It is in the back of your mind but I, we, trust the squad enough that they can deal with that.

Playing a final at Wembley will be a new experience for some, too. Liverpool’s squad is currently stretched with up to ten senior players unavailable. Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai all face “last minute” checks to determine whether they will be fit to feature.

It means Klopp and his team arrive somewhat battered and bruised but still harbouring plenty of belief. Bits may be flying off the machine but it still powers forward.

Chelsea have improved since Anfield demolition

Mauricio Pochettino demanded improvement from his Chelsea side following last month’s 4-1 league defeat at Anfield. He has got it in the form of two wins and a draw (away at Manchester City) in their last three outings in all competitions — also they have had a full week to prepare for this final.

Thus Liverpool are no longer deemed as heavy a favourite as they were once the semi finals concluded. Still, Klopp’s men have the upper hand in recent finals between the teams, albeit these came courtesy of penalty shoot-outs after close encounters.

Getty: Charlotte Wilson/Offside
Getty: Charlotte Wilson/Offside

Pochettino is yet to claim any silverware during his time managing in England, both at Tottenham Hotspur and now Chelsea. There will be no lack of motivation on his part either — especially as a trophy could ignite the early days of his time in west London.

Nevertheless, the spotlight will be fixed upon the manager at the other end of his tenure. The roar from the travelling Kop will be even more intense ahead of kick-off.

No one can replace Jurgen Klopp,” Lijnders added. “[The club] don’t have to replace Jurgen, they have to find a good, good manager because nobody will replace him.

Yet, channelling the emotion will be important for those on the pitch. “We never make it more complicated than it is and I like that. It is the next game, that’s our final — and it is a final so let’s give everything on this planet to win this one and give joy and emotion to the fans.

An eighth trophy success of the Klopp era would be no more significant than the rest but it would add extra oomph to a farewell already in the offing.

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