Matthew Sinton brings you his match preview for Liverpool’s English Football League Cup semi-final against Southampton.
We’ve arrived at the time of the year when the fixtures really begin to pile up. Even more so for us, as for the second year in a row we’ve reached the semi-finals of the League Cup. Not the most prestigious trophy of them all, but a trophy is a trophy and when you get to this stage in the competition you’ve got no choice but to take it seriously.
The previous four fixtures were more of an opportunity for young players like Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold to get some valuable first-team experience, but we now find ourselves in a position where we’ve got a real chance of winning the season’s first piece of silverware.
Last year we faced Stoke City. We were just kept in it by a goal from Jordon Ibe in the away leg as the tie ended 1-1 and Joe Allen scored the winning penalty to send us to Wembley. It wasn’t to be in Klopp’s first season, however, as this too ended 1-1 in extra time and we lost the final to Manchester City in what I must say is one of the worst penalty shootout efforts I’ve ever seen from Liverpool.
We did get our revenge in a way, though. We smashed them 3-0 at Anfield just three days later and effectively ended their title hopes. It was disappointing not to win it in the end, but it showed we had already made great progress under Klopp with an unchanged Rodgers squad and achieved something I don’t think we would have done had he still been in charge.
Enough of last season. This year we face Southampton and, again, the away leg will be played first. That’s better for us, in my opinion, as it takes away the pressure of possibly needing an away goal in the second leg (if we score in the first leg, that is). We should have enough to get past Southampton, even in the absence of Sadio Mane.
They’re in poor form – having lost their last three league games – and are having quite a poor season by their standards – they sit in 10th place and while they can at times be solid defensively, they have struggled for goals this season, scoring just 19 in 20 games (to compare, we’ve scored 48). Only Hull and Middlesbrough have scored less in the Premier League, with 17 goals each.
Speaking of Hull, they are one of two teams in the other semi-final of the competition. The other team, of course, is Manchester United. This gives us the possibility of a very interesting cup final. Should we make it to Wembley for the second year in a row, I’d obviously rather have an easier game, but a final against Manchester United would add that extra edge that this competition sometimes lacks and make the trophy mean so much more to both teams.
My main concern this season is the league, but I’d be delighted if we could make it all the way and win our first League Cup – first trophy, actually – since 2012. I believe we can do it and, if this season so far is anything to go by, so do the players. Come on Reds!