Tuesday and Wednesday will see the respective first leg ties of semi-finals of the Capital One Cup being played with the headline fixture being 2011 winners Liverpool locking horns with Chelsea in what will be viewed as a classic cup game by the fans of both teams and neutrals alike.
Liverpool have come a long way with regard to clawing their way back in the league since that disappointing away defeat at Old Trafford and are now in good niche at the moment with 4 wins in their last 5. On the back of an efficient 0-2 win at the Villa Park, Brendan Rodgers and his side will be hoping to take their current upturn of results and form into the cup competition and the boss believes there’s still plenty of room for improvement ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Anfield. He said,
“There has been a lot of hard work, the players have got confidence now in the way of working and they have been performing very, very well. There’s a lot of improvement left in this team and group. But we’re building towards the future here at the club. We have been progressing very well. You will always be looking to improve, no matter how well you are doing. It’s the challenge when you work with young players; you saw the youthfulness in the team [on Saturday]. We obviously had a bump in the road in the early part of the season. But in this period, the team is performing at a good level – defensively strong and playing some wonderful football. It’s pleasing, but we have to keep improving.”
Chelsea, on the other hand, look to have definitely recovered from their shocking defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur after a couple of back-to-back home and away wins in the league with the latter being particularly impressive at that. A resounding 0-5 mauling of Swansea at the Liberty Stadium was certainly not in the narrative as Chelsea romped to a hugely convincing win opening up a 5-point lead at the top of the table. Mourinho’s Chelsea also have fond recent memories of going to Anfield, having won 2-1 there in November just six months after all-but ending Liverpool’s 2013-14 Premier League title dreams with a famous 2-0 victory. A good result on Tuesday would give his side a very good chance to make it to the final with the second leg to be played the following week at Stamford Bridge where his team has so far been invincible.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard is likely to be named in the starting XI after missing Saturday’s win at Villa, with Glen Johnson and Adam Lallana also approaching full fitness.
Mourinho, meanwhile, may opt to reinstate first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper has recovered from his finger injury.
Mourinho’s side have scored 51 goals in their 22 top-flight fixtures so far this season 20 more than Tuesday’s opponents.
Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has managed to keep 7 clean sheets this season the same number as David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois have managed.
The last time these two sides met in the fifth round in 2011, it was Liverpool that came out on top with a narrow 2-1 win who would also go on to become the eventual winners of the tournament.
Steven Gerrard – Liverpool
There’s been a major influx of emotional tributes to the veteran skipper Steven Gerrard from all corners of the footballing world the past two weeks after the Liverpool Captain announced he would quit Liverpool for a stint at the MLS after the end of this season. Steven Gerrard has still been one of their best players for Liverpool if not the best and could well have a telling impact on Tuesday’s game, being the big game player that he has always been. In the 20 appearances that he’s made, the midfielder has managed to score 5 goals and created a remarkable 41 chances with a neat passing accuracy of 86%. With him rested for the game against Villa, it is clear that Brendan Rodgers wants his Liverpool side to be marshaled by a fully fit and raring to go Steven Gerrard who on his day can hurt any side with the sheer quality of his right foot.
Andre Schurrle – Chelsea
Schurrle as much of a quality footballer that he is, hasn’t been able to get a good run of games under his belt in the Premier League for various reasons, one of them being the current form of Hazard, Oscar and Willian as a trio behind Costa that has been so effective to say the least. He’s been picked for the cup games though by Jose Mourinho this season, giving him the chance to show what he could do and how well he could contribute to the side’s chances of winning a game. Schurrle has been doing fine with the scraps of game-time he gets, with 3 goals in 5 starts (14 appearances in total) in the league creating 6 chances from open play. His conversion rate has been commendable though, with a goal in every 2 shots on target (3/6 found the net), the World Cup winner could pose a genuine threat in front of goal come Tuesday in this vital away fixture.
Spoils to be evenly shared at Anfield which should make the 2nd leg even more interesting.
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea