Why Liverpool Should Attack the EFL Cup
I was not even aware until some random scores started popping up on my timeline, that the English League Cup second round was underway this past week. Tottenham amused everyone, as always, by crashing out at their first hurdle (losing on penalties to Fulham), before Chelsea were forced to bring on over £300m worth of talent, in order to see off league two side, AFC Wimbledon. Due to Liverpool’s 5th place finish in last year’s Premier League, they (alongside others), are only entered into this competition at the third-round stage. As the draw for that third round took place on Wednesday night (after the final 2nd round ties), the Reds were pitted against Leicester City on the week commencing 25th of September. Despite being nine-time winners of this competition, it is still often a trophy that is disregarded by Liverpool, certainly in the early rounds. Common qualification to the Champions League will usually mean that all first team players are spared from this domestic cup competition. This season, however, will allow a lot less strain on the first team group, which may see a stronger team rolled out for this tournament. As part of the last 32, it means that a mere five games must be played (from here), before one club lifts that the EFL Cup on the 25th of February 2024.
The Second String
Reserves; Adrian, Adrián, Marcelo Pitaluga, Stefan Bajčetić, Ben Doak.
Whereas injuries and form will inevitably change the situation of some of the above, it is undeniable that the stress of continual elite level competition will be less this year. Only last season, we saw how Arsenal were able to maintain their surprise challenge for the 2022/23 Premier League season, given their own participation in the Europa League. First and foremost, the league season is clearly what takes precedence, yet this transitional campaign does give a stronger chance of attacking the domestic cups with a little more vigour. The opening group stage of the Reds’ own Europa League journey will likely be a straightforward one, which should allow some assets to participate in the EFL ties.
Carabao Cup R-3:
Brentford v Arsenal
Newcastle United v Manchester City
Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion
Manchester United v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Leicester City
Aston Villa v Everton
— gunner_iut (@gunner_iut) August 31, 2023
As a home tie against Leicester awaits in the Reds’ opening EFL Cup round, Jürgen Klopp will be facing off against a team that will be desperate for a return to the English top division. The Foxes currently sit top of the Championship, with a maximum of twelve points taken from their four games played. After the removal of former Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, Leicester was quick to appoint Dean Smith to try and secure safety in last year’s English top flight. Once that failed attempt was confirmed, Enzo Maresca was given the top job, with a remit to bounce straight back to the pinnacle of the football pyramid.
🇮🇹 Enzo Maresca's start at Leicester City 🦊
— 𝙇𝘾𝙁𝘾 𝙎𝙋 (@LCFCshitposting) August 29, 2023
After a great start, I would imagine that Leicester’s unrelenting fixture list will see the Italian manager reluctant to throw a strong side into their third-round tie at Anfield. The former Manchester City assistant will no doubt have high hopes of taking his team back into the realm of his former mentor, Pep Guardiola. After his first failed attempt at management (with Parma in 2021), this unexpected opportunity is something that could make or break his long-term managerial aspirations. Despite having a strong group to work with, it would be a shock to see last season’s 18th placed team go full strength at Anfield. Even if this were the case, the above points to an ability to throw some key LFC players into this game, thereby seeing off any potential upset.
In terms of Klopp and his regeneration, I suspect a strong cup run and potential trophy lift would act as the catalyst, for what he wants to achieve in his last few seasons as Liverpool manager. So much silverware has been left on the table due to the sports washing shenanigans of Manchester City, the ruthless European pedigree of Real Madrid, or the in-house missteps at Anfield. Though the legacy of our celebrated German is no doubt secure, to add some more trophies to his haul must be something that is not overlooked. Understandably, the major silverware is always the most desirable, but this irregular campaign offers an opportunity that our 55-year-old manager would be foolish to pass up upon.