Ahead of a League Cup final many Liverpool fans had low on their list of priorities at the start of the season, Adam Beattie reflects on a love affair rekindled…
The Reds are back at Wembley.
Despite the overwhelming level of success we’ve enjoyed in recent years, it’s been a decade since a Liverpool captain lifted a trophy in front of a live crowd on English soil, something which would have seemed unthinkable back in 2012 when Kenny Dalglish took us to Wembley three times in as many months.
It should be said that there is a degree of mitigation at play in the domestic tribulations during Klopp’s reign.
A string of unfavourable away draws in early rounds coupled with schedule complexities, not least an actual game taking place in the Middle East 22 hours after a trip to Villa Park, have made the route to the capital more turbulent than would typically be expected.
But we’re back, Anfield South beckons. Man City’s recent dominance has seen them draw level with our record eight wins in the competition, meaning that the 2022 final represents an opportunity to topple them once more.
History is on the line as well as bragging rights.
Reaching February still fighting on all four major fronts is unfamiliar but exciting territory. This is a team that we know are capable of doing the business when it counts, and it starts with a mouthwatering cup final at arguably the perfect time.
The much-maligned League Cup might sit at the bottom of the priority list at the start of the season, but try telling that to the 6,000 that travelled to Arsenal for the semi-final second leg, one of the liveliest Liverpool ends in recent memory.
A new song for a certain Portuguese forward was brought to life and we partied long into the night.
Having won the two biggest prizes it is possible to win in successive seasons, it would be easy to take a Carabao Cup final in our stride.
If silverware really is the currency of success then we absolutely must not turn our noses up at the prospect of putting the first trophy of the season in the cabinet. The players and staff certainly won’t.
The manner in which the route to the final has panned out appears to have galvanised and rekindled the supporters’ love affair with domestic knockouts.
Thousands arrived at Anfield for the quarter-final with Leicester relatively ambivalent towards the outcome in the grand scheme of things, but would’ve given some serious thought to swapping a bodily organ for a win in the penalty shootout two hours later.
The fiery atmosphere and distasteful songs from the away end gave the cup run a new lease of life, compounded further by controversy surrounding the postponement of the away leg at the Emirates.
We are suckers for drama. It’s in our blood, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. We’ve become so accustomed to it having witnessed so many last-gasp winners and achieved so many great things in the most convoluted ways imaginable.
If anything was going to endear and engage the supporter base this time around, it was getting to Wembley in this fashion.
As for the opposition, there was a time when facing Chelsea in the latter stages of a knockout competition was an annual occurrence.
The Mourinho and Benitez days may be long behind us, but the fervent rivalry still simmers beneath the surface. Thomas Tuchel’s side will arrive as European champions, and there’s something quite exhilarating about that.
February 27 is what it’s all about. The sort of occasion we’re in it for and the sort of occasion that this squad is built for.
As this cup run has gathered momentum, so too has the enthusiasm of us all, with the crescendo featuring a glamour tie between two of the most successful clubs in the country.
I can scarcely remember a time when Liverpool fans had more fun than in the treble season of 2001.
Nothing we won that season can be described as one of the ‘big pots’, certainly in comparison to what we’ve witnessed in the past couple of years, but the days and nights we had are the sorts of tales that are passed down through generations.
That’s what cup finals are all about.
Your grandkids won’t care that the prize money fetched the club less than a Champions League dead-rubber at the San Siro. Chelsea vs. Liverpool on February 27 is a throwback fixture in amongst genuine greatness.
The League Cup might not absorb you in quite the same way as it has in seasons gone by, for a number of reasons, but this campaign has been the best possible time to jump back on board.
The early stages of the competition seem to merely exist to provide an opportunity to blood youth and give valuable minutes to fringe players.
Fast-forward six months and February 27 is the biggest occasion of an already memorable season thus far, the biggest game of your life, and quite possibly the catalyst for more to come.
* This is a guest article for This Is Anfield by Adam Beattie. Follow Adam on Twitter, @beatts94.