Jurgen Klopp takes Liverpool to the first of what he and the Reds fans hope will be many cup finals when, on Sunday, the German contests the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini. Klopp has had a rude awakening to some of English football’s peculiarities, but one he should avoid going along with is the ease with which the League Cup is often dismissed.
A trophy is a trophy, and with Liverpool not in the running for the league title, they’re not in a position to turn their noses up at any silverware, and there appears to be a real appetite for claiming a ninth League Cup. But more than that, the League Cup can and has been the catalyst for greater success down the road, a way of instilling a winning mentality into a squad that isn’t necessarily used to landing trophies.
So it was in 2005, when Jose Mourinho, early in his first posting at Chelsea, took the Blues to victory in the same competition. Liverpool were, ironically, the opposition, Chelsea winning 3-2 after extra time in Cardiff in what was perhaps Mateja Kezman’s only notable accomplishment during his time at Stamford Bridge. Kezman scored the winner in the 112th minute, John Arne Riise having opened the scoring in the first minute. A Steven Gerrard own goal in the 79th took the game to extra time and Didier Drogba put Chelsea in front in the 107th. Antonio Nunez equalised before Kezman’s decisive effort.
Liverpool did go on to claim the Champions League that same year, but it wasn’t the start of a period of domination – just a one of a few cups claimed in the decade or more since. Chelsea, rather, developed that crucial winning feeling. The league title arrived a few months later and a second followed the very next season. Four FA Cup between 2007 and 2012, another League Cup in 2007, the Champions League in 2012 and the Europa League a year later – in all, from the 2005 League Cup win, Chelsea have 15 trophies to their name, Liverpool three.
Chelsea are the current League Cup holders, beating Tottenham Hotspur a year ago, a few months before winning the league. “Back in 2004 and 2005 [winning the League Cup] inspired us and kicked us on,” John Terry said after the 2015 success, adding: “It is the start of something.” Mourinho’s implosion arrested that version of Chelsea’s development but the point made by Terry, front and centre for every Chelsea success in the past 11 years, still stands. Having beaten City convincingly earlier in the season, the League Cup could be the start of something for Klopp’s Liverpool.