Depleted Liverpool face uphill task

LIVERPOOL head to Wembley Stadium tomorrow for the Carabao League Cup final against Chelsea with injury concerns.

Jurgen Klopp will certainly have a headache with his starting line-up selection as those on the wounded list include key players.

The injuries come at a bad time for the Reds, aiming to win their first piece of silverware of the season, and who are still in the hunt for three other trophies – the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League.

Klopp was already without long-term injury absentees Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara, Ben Doak and Stefan Bajcetic.

That injury list grew further when first-choice starters including goalkeeper Alisson Becker, right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota were sidelined.

Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah, said to be dealing with niggling injuries, were not even on the bench for the 4-1 league win over Luton midweek.

Jota, also ruled out earlier this season, was playing so well in recent weeks, especially in the absence of Salah for the African Nations Cup.

The Portuguese star will be sorely missed for his work rate and finishing capabilities.

Szoboszlai and Jones will also be missed for their energy in midfield, while the team will have to deal with Chelsea without Alexander-Arnold’s pinpoint crosses and passes.

Caoimhin Kelleher has been a good understudy to Becker in the last few games.

The Republic of Ireland goalkeeper is expected to start the final against Chelsea.

It will be interesting to see if Klopp continues with his faith in 20-year-old Conor Bradley in place of Alexander-Arnold.

Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate will almost certainly be the centre-back pairing, while Andrew Robertson, who made a second-half cameo against Luton, should be recalled into the side.

With a limited number of midfielders available, Wataru Endo, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch are expected to be retained in the starting XI.

Should Salah and Nunez be unavailable, Harvey Elliott, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz will make up the front three again.

Thanks to his massive squad, Mauricio Pochettino will be able to line up a strong team to face Liverpool, even with a number of injured players.

The Argentine will be without Thiago Silva, Benoit Badiashile, Marc Cucurella, Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Carney Chukwuemeka, Lesley Ugochukwu and Roméo Lavia.

The expected line-up should comprise Djordje Petrovic, Levi Colwill, Axel Disasi, Ben Chilwell, Malo Gusto, Enzo Fernandez, Moisés Caicedo, Cole Palmer, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Jackson.

Christopher Nkunku, who made his return from injury in December, and pacy winger Mykhailo Mudryk could also feature.

The Blues also did not have to play midweek, unlike Liverpool, which allowed them more time to prepare.

Since Liverpool triumphed over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup finals in 2022, the teams have met and played four times, with three of them ending in draws.

Chelsea may be struggling to find consistency this season, but they can turn up and frustrate opposing teams.

They held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge early in the season, although the reverse fixture at Anfield this month ended in a 4-1 defeat.

The Blues have also held Manchester City twice this season, while Arsenal were also held 2-2 at Stamford Bridge.

Other notable results included the 4-1 win over Tottenham and winning 3-2 against Brighton despite being down to 10 men.

Facing a depleted Reds side tomorrow, Chelsea will certainly be motivated to avenge their recent defeat and win the first trophy of the season.

For Liverpool, it would be great to have a trophy to celebrate with Klopp, who leaves at the end of the season.

What is more important for the Reds is that they end the match with no further injuries.

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