Liverpool crashed out of the EFL Cup on Tuesday with a 5-0 defeat against Aston Villa. They weren’t the real losers, however – the EFL take that role.
The Reds put out a very young side. It was their youngest side in club history, in fact, at just 19 years old. That’s hardly surprising, given that the senior team is in Qatar for the Club World Cup.
And so while Liverpool were on the end of a hiding, it didn’t actually mean anything. Other than their exit from the EFL Cup, of course.
But that was clearly the best of a bad situation as the EFL forced Liverpool into a decision with this game against Villa. They had to pick between progress here and a shot at the Club World Cup.
When you compare the two competitions – and what they mean to Liverpool – it was always going to go this way.
The Club World Cup is a competition that Liverpool have never won. It’s the only competition that they’ve never won, in fact. This will be the 20th edition of the Club World Cup and only the second opportunity Liverpool have had to win it – and that’s still far more than any other side.
So people can call it small-time or a mere formality but there is a reason the Club World Cup means something to Liverpool. They’ve never been world champions, despite all of their success. They didn’t even win the old Intercontinental Cup, declining to enter the first two times and then losing in ’81 to Flamengo and ’84 to Independiente.
The EFL Cup, however, is something Liverpool have won. More than any other club, as it happens. Of the five trophies still available to win before Tuesday, it was bottom of the list in terms of desire.
And that’s why the EFL are the losers here. By not rearranging the fixture and allowing Liverpool to compete properly, they’ve lost out on the competition meaning something.
After all, Liverpool are currently the best team in the country. If they’re effectively eliminated by default, what is the competition for? What is it proving? At a time when people ask that about the EFL Cup anyway, it seems particularly important to ask now.