Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders believes many were ready to write the Reds’ Carabao Cup hopes off after last week’s goalless draw with Arsenal but he is backing his side to triumph in the semi-final’s second leg on Thursday night.
Arsenal played for more than hour with 10 men at Anfield after the early dismissal of Granit Xhaka but nevertheless held Liverpool to a rare blank, and Mikel Arteta’s side will now hope to capitalise on home advantage in the second leg.
Lijnders sensed a mood of pessimism around Anfield after the first match, but insisted he had been looking forward to Thursday’s second leg from the moment the final whistle went.
“There was disappointment in the stadium, the disappointment of the fans, of us as a staff, so it was not the outside world we’re speaking about,” Lijnders said when about the post-match mood.
“We need optimism in our squad.”
And he pointed to Liverpool’s Champions League round-of-16 success over Bayern Munich in March 2019, when they drew 0-0 at Anfield before winning 3-1 at the Allianz Arena, as he said neither side could claim an advantage at this stage.
“A semi-final over two legs is decided over two legs, it’s half-time, it’s 0-0,” he said.
“We proved already against Bayern Munich, it was 0-0 at home and then we went there and we won. We know what we are capable of. We know what we want.
“In football there are always two games: one is on the scoreboard and the second one is your identity, your style.
“The first one, the scoreboard, you might draw or lose, but the second one, you can never lose, you always try to continue with this process, we always try to do that because it causes our success.
“We will go to Arsenal to put our game into place, to attack them with the ball and without the ball. That’s what we want.”
Last year Liverpool were beaten by Arsenal on penalties in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, and they have not reached this stage of the competition since being beaten by Southampton in January 2017.
But Lijnders said suggestions the club did not take the League Cup seriously were wide of the mark.
“We are Liverpool Football Club and our team have proved [our desire],” he said.
“A lot of people don’t believe when we spoke about the League Cup that we want to attack this competition and to reach the final.
“We are now in the semi-final, we can reach Wembley and we will try with everything we have. The journey for the fans to London to prepare for a final, that is what this club is all about.
“The players of Liverpool have won a lot but if you want to become a true legend you want to win your national cup competitions as well.”