Last-gasp Van Dijk header seals Carabao Cup win for Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk headed a 118th-minute winner to seal the Carabao Cup for Liverpool with a 1-0 win over Chelsea.

Jurgen Klopp’s swansong season has guaranteed at least one piece of silverware for the club, but it took a long time to get there in a topsy-turvy encounter that somehow stayed goalless for nearly the duration at Wembley.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and captain Virgil Van Dijk lift the Carabao Cup trophy following their 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley.

There were posts hit at each end, VAR foils for each team and a string of chances denied. But with penalties looming it was Van Dijk who settled it, rising highest to head in from a corner. It is the 10th time Liverpool have won this cup, increasing their position as the most successful team in the history of the competition ahead of Manchester City (eight).

For Chelsea there will only be regret, and Mauricio Pochettino’s wait for a first trophy in England continues.

“In extra-time it’s been Klopp’s kids against the blue, billion-pound bottlejobs,” said Sky Sports’ Gary Neville.

Player ratings

Chelsea: Petrovic (7), Gusto (7), Colwill (7), Disasi (5), Chilwell (6), Enzo (5), Gallagher (7), Caicedo (4), Palmer (7), Sterling (5), Jackson (6)

Subs: Nkunku (7), Mudryk (4), Madueke (5), Chalobah (6)

Chelsea player ratings by Laura Hunter

Liverpool: Kelleher (9), Bradley (7), Konate (6), Van Dijk (9), Robertson (7), Endo (8), Mac Allister (7), Gravenberch (6), Elliott (7), Gakpo (5), Diaz (7)

Subs: Gomez (7), Clark (7), Tsimikas (7), McConnell (7), Danns (7), Quansah (7)

Liverpool player ratings by Lewis Jones

Player of the match:Virgil van Dijk

A chaotic clash at Wembley settled by Liverpool at the last

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Virgil Van Dijk’s extra-time winner secures Liverpool the victory at Wembley.

It was an engaging opening at Wembley, with both goalkeepers tested early on. First Chelsea’s Djordje Petrovic was called into action twice in quick succession from Alexis Mac Allister and Luis Diaz. Then, at the other end, Caoimhin Kelleher produced an unbelievable stop from point-blank range to deny Cole Palmer.

The chances kept coming. Raheem Sterling had the ball in the net for Chelsea, but VAR narrowly ruled Nicolas Jackson offside in the build-up. Cody Gakpo then rattled the Blues post with a header.

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A stunning Caoimhin Kelleher stop denies Cole Palmer the opener in the Carabao Cup final.

Team news

  • Liverpool were without Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez in attack, both ruled out pre-match with injury.
  • Chelsea were unchanged from their most recent Premier League game, as Thiago Silva remained absent.

VAR figured heavily again on the hour. Van Dijk thought he had headed Liverpool in front from a free-kick but, after a lengthy check, Wataru Endo was deemed to be offside in the build-up, impeding Levi Colwill – who was prevented from reaching the Reds captain.

The see-saw swung Chelsea’s way again as they took their turn to rattle the woodwork, with Conor Gallagher in disbelief he hadn’t scored after prodding Palmer’s cross against the post from six yards. Several minutes later Gallagher was denied once more, slipped through by Palmer but not getting the ball out of his feet quickly enough to beat the onrushing Kelleher.

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Was Moises Caicedo lucky to avoid a red card for this tackle on Ryan Gravenberch?

Liverpool’s teenage trio

Liverpool ended the game with three teenagers on the pitch as Jurgen Klopp turned to youth to help an injury-ravaged squad that also lost Ryan Gravenberch in the first half.

Jayden Danns (18), Bobby Clark (19) and James McConnell (19). were all introduced late on at Wembley.

More chaos ensued in the Liverpool box, but no way through was found, and the game moved into extra-time, during which Petrovic denied Harvey Elliott’s close-range header with his leg at the near post.

Finally, with two minutes left of extra-time that breakthrough was found. Van Dijk rose again, this time from a corner, to nod in at the Liverpool end, sending the Reds into bedlam.

Is this the first leg of a Liverpool quadruple?

  • Carabao Cup champions
  • Top of the Premier League
  • Into the FA Cup fifth round
  • In the Europa League last 16

Klopp: Win was ‘absolutely insane’ | ‘The kids were unbelievable’

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Jurgen Klopp dedicated Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final win to a squad and academy

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on Sky Sports:

“What happened here this afternoon is absolutely insane. These things are not possible.

“Besides, we had a team, a squad with an academy full of character. It’s unbelievable what happened here. I’m so proud that I could be part of it. Wow.

“The crazy stuff is, we deserved it. We had lucky moments, they had lucky moments. That’s the game, it was a tough game – it was almost 150 minutes with all the extra-times. The boys showed up, it was so good.

“I’m pretty sure when we were bringing on all the kids that people were thinking: ‘Okay that’s it now, they’ve given up with a game on Wednesday’.

“It was really not the case, we thought we needed fresh legs. They were fresh legs, but very young. They did the job. Dannsy headed the ball on the crossbar, the other one was scrappy. James, Bobby, what they did – unbelievable.”

Klopp added in his victorious post-match press conference:

“I loved it. What we see today is so exceptional. We might never see it again, these things don’t happen in football. Apparently you don’t win trophies with kids, I didn’t know that.

“It is easily the most special trophy I’ve ever won. It’s absolutely exceptional. I wish I could feel pride more often, tonight that’s the overwhelming feeling.

“I couldn’t care less about my legacy, I’m not here to create one. I’m here to do the job. We’ve learned so much in this time. From time to time you need something to really celebrate, this was so special.”

Neville: The blue billion-pound bottle jobs shrunk in front of our eyes

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Chelsea somehow miss four golden chances in quick succession at Wembley.

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:

“In extra time it’s been Klopp’s kids against the blue billion-pound bottle jobs.

“Liverpool have been absolutely sensational. Those young players have been incredible. Klopp must be so proud.

“However, for Chelsea, I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. Mauricio Pochettino’s players have shrunk. They have shrunk right in front of our eyes and in front of their fans.

“This will sting for Chelsea. Before the game, with Liverpool’s injuries, you think Chelsea could have won. The Liverpool’s kids come on and you think they should win. But then there was just something holding you back because you couldn’t see Jurgen Klopp watching Chelsea go up and lift the trophy.

“The Chelsea players will regret that extra time for a long, long time. I thought they played quite well and punched hard in normal time. They were a little unlucky. But in the real crux of the game in extra time, where they had Liverpool by the scruff of the neck with those young kids, Chelsea didn’t turn up. They didn’t perform.

“You cannot do that. It was in half time of extra time Pochettino had to get them in a huddle and try to rouse them. What was up with them?

“I’m really disappointed with Chelsea in that extra time period. You can lose any final and you can lose any game of football, but you cannot play like that. You cannot shrink and go back, particularly when Liverpool had five kids on the pitch.

“They had to go for their throats.”

Poch responds to ‘bottle jobs’ jibe

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Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino says his young team is ‘nothing to compare to Liverpool’ in response to Gary Neville describing Chelsea as ‘blue billion-pound bottle-jobs’.

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino:

“If you compare the age of the two groups, it’s similar. I have a good relationship with Gary, I can respect his opinion. We made a few changes for extra time, but we didn’t keep the energy. For sure I feel proud. They made a big effort.

“We have a young team, and nothing to compare with Liverpool because they finished with young players on the pitch. It’s not fair to talk in this way, if he said that. We’re going to keep being strong and believing in this project.”

Pochettino added to Sky Sports:

“It’s always difficult when you lose a final because you have the chances. It’s one game.

“We lost in the last minute of the game. So painful. Now we have to take the positive things, keep going, push and use this type of game to learn and do better and only be positive. We really competed. In some periods of the game I think we deserved more. But if you don’t score with the chances we had, five or six big chances, it’s difficult to win the final.

“You need to be clinical in front of the goal. We need to congratulate Liverpool and keep going.”

Carragher: Football is about connections not money

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The Liverpool team and staff joined with fans in an emotional rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, following their Carabao Cup final win at Wembley.

Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher:

“This result just tells you that football isn’t all about money. It’s about getting the right players and creating a connection between those players, the manager and the supporters.

“Liverpool have that in abundance. There’s no doubt Chelsea have quality but they still haven’t found that connection this season.”

A tale of two VARS

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Raheem Sterling has a goal ruled out for offside in the Carabao Cup final.

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Virgil van Dijk thought he had given Liverpool the lead in the Carabao Cup final, only for VAR to pick out an offside to see the goal chalked off.

What’s next?

Chelsea welcome Leeds United to Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup fifth round at 7.30pm on Wednesday night. The Blues then visit Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday; kick off 3pm.

Liverpool host Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday at 8pm. Jurgen Klopp’s side visit Nottingham Forest in the Premier League next Saturday at 3pm.

Carabao Cup final ratings: Van Dijk, Kelleher are Liverpool’s monsters

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Highlights from the Carabao Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool

Liverpool

Caoimhin Kelleher – 9

Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher saves a shot from Chelsea's Cole Palmer
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Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher saves a shot from Chelsea’s Cole Palmer

Liverpool’s superman. He flew to their rescue when called upon. It started with a world-class save to deny Cole Palmer from point-blank range before he made a supreme block at the feet of Conor Gallagher. He was brilliantly positioned for Christopher Nkunku’s chance in injury time as he was throughout. A performance for the ages.

Andy Robertson – 7

Chelsea's Cole Palmer and Liverpool's Andrew Robertson (right) during the Carabao Cup final
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Chelsea’s Cole Palmer and Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson (right) during the Carabao Cup final

Reliable as ever. Almost provided an assist with a lovely cross for Cody Gakpo but that effort struck the post.

Virgil van Dijk – 9

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk roars in celebration after scoring the winning goal in the Carabao Cup final
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Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk roars in celebration after scoring the winning goal in the Carabao Cup final

A masterclass. Along with Kelleher, he stepped up. Always in the right spot, hardly putting a foot wrong. Liverpool’s leader is seriously back to his best. Thought he had a match-winning moment until VAR stepped in – but he eventually stole the show late on. A monster.

Ibrahima Konate – 6

Struggled at times. He engaged in a great battle with Nicolas Jackson and came out second best. Fortunate that VAR deemed the Chelsea striker offside when he was a little slow in pushing up. Conceded four fouls and was carded.

Conor Bradley – 6

For someone so inexperienced, the way he adapted to being thrust into the Liverpool front three after Ryan Gravenberch’s injury was seriously impressive on this kind of stage. Did not look out of place, and managed to get under Ben Chilwell’s skin but eventually ran out of gas in the second half.

Ryan Gravenberch – 6

Replaced on 28 minutes, adding to Liverpool’s injury woes, after he was caught late by Moises Caicedo. A shame for the Netherlands midfielder, who had been finding some form in recent weeks after a stop-start beginning to life at Liverpool.

Alexis Mac Allister – 7

Composed and classy on the ball. The big Wembley pitch took its toll on his legs though as he looked tired in the second half following a relentless schedule of late.

Wataru Endo – 8

Set the tone with some early aggressive play in midfield and his block on Jackson after Palmer’s big first half chance was vitally important. The £16.2m Liverpool paid Stuttgart for his services was the shrewdest of business. Never stopped running and fighting.

Harvey Elliott – 7

Liverpool's Harvey Elliott challenges for the ball with Chelsea's Enzo Fernandez (AP)
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Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott challenges for the ball with Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez

Full of spark and endeavour on his 101st Liverpool appearance meaning he has become the fourth youngest Liverpool player to reach the 100 landmark behind Michael Owen, Raheem Sterling and Robbie Fowler. This was a mature performance.

Luis Diaz – 7

Saw lots of the ball, with a clear plan to utilise his presence as the senior man in the front three but his performance blew very hot and cold, mostly cold. He became predictable with his play and wild with his finishing. Could not fault his commitment to the cause though – did not stop.

Cody Gakpo – 5

Had scored in every round of the competition this season but misfired at Wembley. A clever header was unlucky to come back off the post but rushed his finish at a key moment when leaning back on 70 minutes after a barnstorming Diaz run. Liverpool needed more from him.

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Liverpool captain and goal scorer Virgil van Dijk praises the young players in the squad following the extra-time win in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

Subs

Joe Gomez – 7

His first Wembley appearance for Liverpool having not been selected for the previous two finals, filling in at right-back. Solid stuff as always.

Bobby Clark – 7

Yet to start a game for Liverpool but has a cup final appearance to his name now having only just turned 19 when replacing Bradley. Buzzed around without ever really affecting the game but did not look out of place.

Jayden Danns – 7

Only made his senior debut four days ago but looked confident and composed when thrust onto the big stage. He almost wrote himself into Liverpool folklore in extra-time but his looping header was tipped away by Djordje Petrovic.

James McConnell – 7

Replaced Mac Allister on 87 minutes, making just his seventh senior appearance. Used the ball intelligently.

Jarell Quansah – 7

Played the final 15 minutes of extra-time with Konate running the risk of a second yellow card. Assured.

Kostas Tsimikas – 7

Liverpool lost a bit of impetus down the left when Robertson departed but Tsmikas came to the party in extra-time with a fantastic corner delivered for Van Dijk.

Virgil van Dijk is mobbed by team-mates after scoring an extra-time winner for Liverpool
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Virgil van Dijk is mobbed by team-mates after scoring an extra-time winner for Liverpool

Chelsea

Djordje Petrovic – 7

Was let off the hook by Liverpool’s injury-ravaged selection. Regardless, commanded his box well and swept up behind Axel Disasi and Levi Colwill, as well as producing a superb save to deny Elliott in the dying embers of extra-time. Needed better from the defenders in front of him as Van Dijk ghosted in to settle the game – nothing he could do.

Axel Disasi – 5

Disasi is the only player to start all six League Cup games on Chelsea’s run to the final, and like Colwill, benefitted from the fact Liverpool were lacking firepower. Fairly robust performance, until… he let Van Dijk run off him for the winner. Started extra-time with a seven, and ended it with a five.

Malo Gusto – 7

Registered Chelsea’s first shot on target in the opening half – a volleyed effort that did not particularly trouble Kelleher. Dealt with the direct running of Diaz well, without too much help from Disasi, and was a willing runner in the opposite direction. Dug Chelsea out of trouble a few times in extra-time, as legs were tiring. One of Chelsea’s better performers.

Levi Colwill – 6

Could have been booked after six minutes for a horrible lunging tackle on Mac Allister but proved to be solid after that rash opening. Handled the threat of Gakpo well – you can only play the player in front of you, but there is every chance he would have been far less comfortable with the presence of Darwin Nunez, should the Uruguay forward been fit enough to feature.

Ben Chilwell – 6

Out-jumped for Van Dijk’s attempted opener, which was then chalked off – somewhat harshly – by VAR. Managed and read the game really well, particularly in the absence of Thiago Silva, who often acts as Chelsea’s regular orchestrator at the back. Liverpool scored their winner minutes after he was taken off – perhaps no coincidence.

Moises Caideco – 4

Chelsea's Moises Caicedo tackles Liverpool's Bobby Clark battle for the ball
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Chelsea’s Moises Caicedo tackles Liverpool’s Bobby Clark battle for the ball

Wild challenge on Gravenberch in the first half, who was then forced off injured. Untidy in possession and even scruffier out of it. Looks like half the player he was at Brighton and in need of a serious reboot.

Enzo Fernandez – 5

Completely fluffed a chance early in the second half when set up by Gallagher and looked shaky on the ball. Regained a bit of composure in the second half, and was typically combative, but questions remain as to whether the expensively assembled Enzo-Caicedo pairing in midfield is working for Chelsea. Jury is out.

Conor Gallagher – 7

All-action display, particularly second half. At times he glided past players as if they were not there and showed purpose and drive to affect the game. Hit the post, and blasted a couple of further chances off target. Alongside Palmer, Chelsea’s most industrious performer, before being withdrawn in extra-time.

Raheem Sterling – 5

Had the ball in the net first half, which was cruelly ruled out, but couldn’t affect much beyond that. Replaced by Christopher Nkunku midway through the second period, who injected more energy.

Cole Palmer – 7

Missed the chance to put Chelsea ahead inside 20 minutes, forcing Kelleher into a world-class save, but was Chelsea’s biggest threat throughout. Carried the ball well, and teed Gallagher up as he struck the post after the break. Good vision too. He’s the one who makes Chelsea tick in possession, albeit this wasn’t his brightest game in a Blues shirt.

Nicolas Jackson – 6

Huffed and puffed but was outfought by Van Dijk in almost every department. There is no striker in the land who wins consistent headers against him, so the ploy to go high and long into Jackson seemed futile from the off. When he received the ball into feet or in behind, which was not often enough, he threatened to produce without actually producing.

Subs

Christopher Nkunku – 7

Bright and a willing runner in behind. Did miss the golden chance when firing straight at the excellent Kelleher.

Noni Madueke – 5

Wasteful. Had two opportunities inside the box down the right to provide a match-winning moment but fluffed his final ball.

Mykhailo Mudryk – 4

With tiring limbs against him, you would assume his searing pace would provide a weapon for Chelsea. It didn’t. In fact, he was barely noticeable until he was outjumped for Van Dijk’s winner. He epitomises where it is all going wrong for Chelsea in terms of their recruitment.

Trevoh Chalobah – 6

Replaced Chilwell with 10 minutes to go.

What’s next?

Liverpool host Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday at 8pm. Jurgen Klopp’s side visit Nottingham Forest in the Premier League next Saturday at 3pm.

Brentford host Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday; kick off 3pm.

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Why the Carabao Cup could be crucial for Pochettino’s Chelsea

Chelsea have not gone two seasons without winning a trophy since 2000-2005.

What kind of pressure does that put on Mauricio Pochettino, who – despite being in two major finals with Tottenham – has yet to win a trophy in England?

Will a Carabao Cup final win act as the springboard to success for the Blues? Or will Pochettino be haunted by ghosts from his past…

Sky Sports analyses the merits behind Chelsea in the Pochettino mould and their chances of proving their mettle at Wembley on Sunday against Liverpool – the team hotly tipped for Carabao Cup glory.

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Speaking ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp spoke about the importance of the trophy and the winning feeling being as special as any other big final

Silverware could be turning point in Poch rule

Chelsea have been here before. Pochettino has been here before. But this time they will be heading to Wembley as a united front, both in desperate need of something to prove it is all worth it.

Sunday is a big day for all Chelsea stakeholders. The Blues are due to contest their first final since the abrupt end of the Roman Abramovich era – a chance for Todd Boehly to realise some return on his market-altering £1bn-plus investment.

Credit - AP Photo/Getty
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Todd Boehly (right) and Behdad Eghbali (left) have committed more than £1bn on new players since their 2022 takeover

Far from a sure footing, Chelsea enter this game on shaky ground. Glimpses of possibility have been shown under Pochettino but nothing to suggest a complete closure of the confused and chaotic chapter that went before him.

Chelsea’s young, talented squad crave stability and that is something that, given time, the Argentinian is capable of installing. Pochettino improves players: take Cole Palmer and Conor Gallagher, two of Chelsea’s shining lights this season, as indications of his ability to nurture. Glimpses of promise.

Cole Palmer celebrates one of his two goals for Chelsea against Middlesbrough
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Cole Palmer (left) and Conor Gallagher are both enjoying exceptional seasons under Pochettino

At Spurs, Pochettino led his side to – and subsequently lost – two major finals, the most damaging and hurtful of which was the Champions League final in 2019 to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Here we stand again, except the occasion has changed, the competition and venue has changed – only the opposition remains the same. Pochettino’s record against Liverpool is far from favourable – only winning three times in 18 meetings – but the drive to win a trophy in England has surely intensified.

The reward would be huge, while a trophy would signify progress. Something tangible to hang his cap on.

GRAPHIC

The topsy-turvy nature of football has many questioning the 51-year-old and whether he is the right man to steer the Chelsea ship.

Some of those doubters would be silenced if the Blues could somehow upset Liverpool on Sunday. Ultimately, disregarding all of the off-field matters, that is what a manager is there to do. Win football matches.

Chelsea have made clear progress on the grass under Pochettino – almost every metric is positive when compared with the Graham Potter era. Their unexpected display of defiance at Manchester City last week was further proof – and Carabao Cup winners’ medals would be demonstrative of a team on an upward curve.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Manchester City and Chelsea

Time to prove this is not a Chelsea side that buckles under pressure against teams that, on paper, present a stronger front.

Time for Pochettino to prove the credence behind ‘third-time lucky’. And time for the Chelsea boss to demonstrate that, as he delicately puts it, growth really is a process.

Chelsea’s best chance of a return to Europe?

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino, left, and Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp react during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)
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Pochettino’s first game in charge of Chelsea was a 1-1 draw with Liverpool

Pochettino left no room for manoeuvre in September when he said: “We are going to be involved in European competition next season. No doubt with the quality we have.”

Chelsea are 12 points behind fifth-placed Tottenham – the team that occupies the last European qualification spot in the Premier League – going into the weekend, meaning winning a cup represents their best chance of fulfilling Pochettino’s promise.

The winners of the Carabao Cup are guaranteed entry into the Europa Conference League – not the level of competition Chelsea have been used to in the last 20 years but far more than they achieved last season.

Part of the reason the Blues find themselves relying on the cups has been their maddening inconsistency in the Premier League.

Chelsea have scored five goals and refused to be beaten across two meetings with Man City, while they impressed when taking points off Liverpool and Arsenal.

Yet they were also on the receiving end of 4-1 thrashings at Anfield and against Newcastle, while they were thoroughly outplayed in defeat at Manchester United.

Just a week after taking a point from the home of the champions, can Pochettino’s team follow up with another big-time performance and provide tangible proof that progress is being made under his rule?

Should Poch take a leaf out of Mourinho’s playbook?

File photo dated 27-02-2005 of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho holding the Carling Cup. Chelsea lifted their first silverware under Jose Mourinho at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which hosted English cup finals between 2001 to 2006 while the new Wembley was being built. Liverpool opened the scoring inside the first minute of the game after John Arne Riise volleyed home a cross from Fernando Morientes. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.
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The League Cup was the first trophy Jose Mourinho won in England

Pochettino may want to follow one of his predecessor’s examples when it comes to the Carabao Cup.

After arriving at Chelsea in 2004, Jose Mourinho made the League Cup a priority. He recognised lifting a trophy so early in his reign would help to convince the players of his pedigree, as well as their own ability to perform on the biggest stage.

It worked. Months after beating Liverpool in the 2005 League Cup final, Chelsea won their first league title for 50 years.

The Portuguese repeated the trick at United, winning the League Cup again in 2017 – his first season at the club – before going on to lift the Europa League in the same campaign.

It is not just Mourinho who has recognised lifting the Carabao Cup can help to build a winning culture. It was also the first trophy Pep Guardiola won at Manchester City.

Pochettino is in the early stages of trying to instil a similar culture at Chelsea. That task is made clear by the fact that, despite the record-breaking sums spent in the transfer market, only five players in their squad have won domestic trophies in England.

What is more, none of those players earned those medals with the Blues. Wesley Fofana and Ben Chilwell won the FA Cup and Premier League, respectively, at Leicester, while Romeo Lavia, Palmer and Raheem Sterling’s silverware came at Manchester City.

“If you don’t win in a club like Chelsea, you will struggle,” Pochettino said last summer. His club have struggled a lot over the past 18 months – will they take their opportunity to win?

Watch Chelsea vs Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 2pm; kick-off 3pm.

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