German tacticians go head to head at Wembley – Carabao Cup final talking points

KloppTuchel (1)

Chelsea’s much-vaunted defence will take on Liverpool’s free-scoring attack in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the major talking points ahead of the Wembley showdown.

The battle of the German tacticians

Liverpool v Chelsea – Premier League – Anfield

Thomas Tuchel, left, and Jurgen Klopp, centre, will both cut animated figures on the Wembley touchline (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel have faced each other 17 times in management. Liverpool’s boss boasts nine victories, with Tuchel prevailing just three times. Klopp has so far been unable to get the better of Tuchel in England however. Tuchel has led Chelsea to one win and two draws against Liverpool. Both Premier League encounters this season have ended honours even. First Chelsea’s 10 men battled to a creditable 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, before the Blues hit back from the brink to snatch a 2-2 result at Stamford Bridge in January. Both encounters this season have proved open, attacking and entertaining contests. Should Sunday’s final follow suit, the Wembley crowd will be treated to a tussle fit to decide the destination of a major trophy.

A final of growing significance for Liverpool

Liverpool Training Session – AXA Training Centre – Tuesday February 15th

Klopp has transformed Liverpool in his Anfield tenure (Martin Rickett/PA)

Liverpool’s decorated recent run under Klopp has pushed the League Cup down the Reds’ priority pecking order. But Manchester City’s Premier League dominance this season leaves the Carabao Cup as a bigger target, even if the title race is back on. City’s shock loss to Tottenham has put Liverpool back in the Premier League hunt, but that will not mean any focus is lost on Sunday. This is the Reds’ first chance to lift something tangible this season, and Klopp and company will not intend to waste it. The FA Cup and Champions League are still possibilities, but no one of an Anfield persuasion will want to let this trophy tilt pass by.

Lukaku could be on the bench again

Chelsea v Lille – UEFA Champions League – Round of Sixteen – First Leg – Stamford Bridge

Romelu Lukaku was an unused replacement against Lille (John Walton/PA)

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku continues to fight for fluency and rhythm at Chelsea, following his club-record £98million summer switch from Inter Milan. The 28-year-old was an unused substitute in Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League win over Lille, and might face the same fate this weekend. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic impressed up front with Hakim Ziyech also shining too. If Chelsea want to try to stretch Liverpool or even match the Reds’ mobility, then Lukaku could be out of luck again.

Klopp’s final record will have no bearing

Jurgen Klopp celebrates

Klopp ended his poor final record in the 2019 Champions League (Mike Egerton/PA)

Klopp lost seven straight finals before steering Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2019. Since then the Reds have won the Club World Cup and the Premier League. Klopp has helped the Reds break far more pivotal droughts than his prior poor run in showpiece contests. Liverpool’s 2016 League Cup and Europa League final losses and the Champions League defeat in 2018 were all part of a sustained building process. The trophies and glory that followed cemented Klopp’s era of success, and lifted a certain weight off both manager and club.

Tuchel trusts in big-game mentality

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Chelsea’s defensive prowess under Tuchel has turned the Blues into bona fide cup specialists. The Champions League holders have already added the European Super Cup and Club World Cup titles to their trophy haul this term. Covid-19, injuries and inconsistency have blighted their league ambitions but the Blues’ abilities in cup competitions stem from a miserly tactical blueprint that so often squeezes opponents. Liverpool will test that to the extreme on Sunday, but the same was said of Manchester City in last season’s Champions League final, and yet Tuchel’s men still prevailed.

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