Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel will shy away from final being all about them

Liverpool v Chelsea – Premier League – Anfield
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Sunday’s Carabao Cup final will be billed as Jurgen Klopp versus Thomas Tuchel, the guy who followed the guy, but neither will want – or even agree – they deserve top billing.

For all he has done in turning Liverpool into a force again Klopp insists, as he always has, it is all about the achievements of the players.

Tuchel, whose first year in charge has brought a Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, argues similarly.

Both play down the similarity of their career paths: Tuchel succeeding Klopp first at Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund before, ultimately, following him into the Premier League.

But where they are alike is in getting the job done when it matters. Admittedly Klopp has had more final failures than his opposite number but at six years his senior that is probably to be expected.

Klopp needed four finals to get his hands on his first piece of silverware at Anfield, losing the League Cup, Europa League and Champions League finals before finally securing the club’s sixth European Cup, which was immediately followed by a first league title in 30 years.

Tuchel has had more immediate success, although some would argue his four major domestic trophies in two seasons with Paris St Germain was the bare minimum expected.

But his influence on Chelsea having taken charge just over 13 months ago was equally instantaneous as he lifted the side from ninth to fourth, took them to an FA Cup final (losing to Leicester) with arguably his biggest success being to beat Manchester City in the Champions League final.

However, their teams meet at Wembley seemingly on considerably different levels.

Liverpool, still contesting four competitions, are chasing down defending Premier League champions Manchester City and making serene progress in Europe with a virtually fully-fit squad all working in harmony.

Chelsea’s form has been more inconsistent but having failed to sustain a challenge with the top two they are still in contention for a cup treble, although things inside the squad appear not to be so rosy.

Following the fall-out from Romelu Lukaku’s December interview in which he professed his love for former club Inter Milan but less so for Tuchel – for which he had to apologise – the relationship between the £97.5million signing and his head coach has remained difficult.

The striker appears to still be struggling with Tuchel’s tactics, his only goals in 2022 have come against Chesterfield, Al Hilal and Palmeiras, last weekend he played 90 minutes against Crystal Palace and touched the ball just seven times and in midweek against Lille he did not even get off the bench.

Fortunately Chelsea are so sound defensively, and with players like Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz finding some form, they have just about been getting away with not having Lukaku anywhere near his best.

Their two draws against Liverpool this season, particularly last month’s in recovering a two-goal deficit, means they will walk out at Wembley confident they can meet the challenge posed by Klopp’s side.

They will be, however, meeting a different team in terms of form, confidence and quality from their early January encounter at Stamford Bridge and have been invigorated by getting themselves back into a title race with Manchester City.

In the intervening period Liverpool have won 10 and drawn one of 11 matches, added ready-made Porto forward Luis Diaz into their already heady attacking mix and have gained a real sense of momentum and belief.

That, as rivals have found to their cost in the past, is an irrepressible mix and with Klopp rejuvenated after more than a season behind closed doors appeared to dull his love of the game the Reds will start as favourites.

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