The Final Countdown
The first domestic final of the year descends on the nation this weekend, as Liverpool face Chelsea in a battle of two brilliant German managers.
Both sides began the season with extreme hopes of success, and both will be eager to add silverware to their substantial recent hauls. With a tense occasion sure to grace the Wembley turf, there are multiple questions as to how Tommy Tuchel will set up his side. Romelu Lukaku is a tremendous striker that simply isn’t suited to the Blues’ current patterns of play. His £105 million price tag almost demands success, and with some injury issues within their squad, his start may become one of necessity. Tuchel has at times marvelled in one off games, and will need an iron clad strategy in order to emerge victorious over this Liverpool side.
Regardless of how Tuchel sets up his side, Jurgen Klopp will surely look to attack the occasion with immense energy and intensity. The line up is looking pretty nailed on at this stage, and after only a month, the Liverpool fans have been rewarded with a devastating looking new front line. Luis Diaz signed from FC Porto, and no one saw it coming. Much like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane before him, Klopp has not hesitated in unleashing his new forward, and he could be the standout player this Sunday.
After the annihilation of Leeds on Wednesday, Liverpool are absolutely flying. With Manchester City’s Premier League advantage cut to just three points, Liverpool still have a genuine hand in four competitions this season. To handle, overcome and ultimately best Serie A Champions Inter Milan last week, Klopp has been able to show high level in game management this calendar year. The starting line ups have become somewhat unpredictable, with the whole of the squad being used as required. The final may still offer up one or two surprise selections, but the likelihood is that he will go with his current preferred line up.
Caoimhin Kelleher appears likely to start in goal, with his previous outings in this competition being rewarded with a final spot. It would be easy to explain away the selection of Alisson Becker, but the reds boss appears all about players receiving their rewards. Joel Matip appears to have seen off enormous pressure from Ibrahima Konate, and will start alongside the worlds greatest defender. The fullbacks will be first choice, with Thiago and Fabinho set to be joined by the skipper. Jordan Henderson has had a poor overall season, yet has emerged in the last few games with some strong performances. The subbing, dropping and recalibrating of the captains role, appears to have jolted a good reaction, one that can only be a positive for him and the team.
The Liverpool forward options have become staggering. The famed front three now consists of four forwards (ranging from elite to world class), one savage system player, and two valuable senior in reserve. Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz will surely flank the AFCON champion, Sadio Mane, with Diogo Jota hopefully fit to take a place on the bench. To choose three from that sensational group (and still have Bobby to return) is remarkable, and the Reds will be looking to outgun their opponents at Wembley.
After a season of relative woe last year, this campaign could just be building to something unprecedented. The energy and strength surrounding this group of players has become intoxicating, with a fanbase bubbling like a champagne bottle about to be opened. This weekend could go either way, as Chelsea are still Chelsea. The form and predictions are all well and good, but great teams are still just that. But Liverpool have an opportunity, a chance to ignite the flames of their famous crest, and send a message to the footballing world.
Liverpool Football Club are back, and are here to stay.