Carabao Cup finalJürgen Klopp on Chelsea analysis and Kelleher's 'great story'
Jürgen Klopp expects fine margins to be decisive as Liverpool and Chelsea tussle for the third time this season with the Carabao Cup up for grabs.
Nothing has separated the sides across 180 minutes of Premier League action, with a 1-1 draw at Anfield early in the campaign followed by a frantic 2-2 at Stamford Bridge last month.
There has to be a winner at Wembley this afternoon, of course, with the Reds chasing a fifth major trophy of Klopp’s tenure and their first success in the League Cup for a decade in the 4.30pm GMT kick-off.
And the manager outlined what he expects to be the crucial factors against the Blues during his extended pre-match interview with Liverpoolfc.com.
Watch: Jürgen Klopp's Wembley preview in full
“I am realistic but very positive as well, because there’s no need for anything else,” said Klopp. “Qualifying for a final is not even close to winning it, but we should take a lot of confidence out of the things the boys did so far in the season or in general. Chelsea can do it as well.
“In the end, how it always is, it’s about who gets the momentum in the decisive situations, who can finish their situations off better, who can defend the opponent in the best possible way, so who can cut off most things of the strengths of the other team? That’s obviously a constant battle during the game.
“But it is nice, you will never play a final – it never happened to me, at least – against a ‘weaker’ side, you just face top-class teams, world-class teams and that is the case here as well.”
On how much Klopp and his staff’s analysis of the opposition has focused on those two previous meetings this term, rather than Chelsea’s more recent matches, he added: “The recent form is never really a thing in our analysis because that is only temporary. If it is really bad, especially, then you ignore it completely.
“Yes, the two games, of course we use them; one is not too long ago. But it’s as important how they have played the last few games, it’s very important who is coming back, we probably should expect Reece James being back and all these kind of things. Then you still don’t know who will start, because that makes a big difference for Chelsea, who they have available and which system they will play.
“We don’t know this 100 per cent, that’s why analysis is important but focusing on yourself is much more important. We have tools to cause each team problems and that’s what we have to be focused on and I hope that works out.”
Caoimhin Kelleher will be Liverpool’s starting goalkeeper at Wembley, it has been confirmed, with the Republic of Ireland international having been a key figure in the team’s run to the final.
After a penalty save and clean sheet in the third round at Norwich City, he saved two kicks in the quarter-final shootout with Leicester City and then helped to keep out Arsenal in the semi-final second-leg victory last month.
“A great story,” begins Klopp’s description of a journey that has seen Kelleher flourish from a teenage arrival at the Academy into a cup final starter at Wembley – with John Achterberg’s faith and conviction in him a significant factor in that development.
“If you talk about Caoimh, you have to talk about John Achterberg as well, because from the first day when I arrived here pretty much, we had other goalkeepers and Caoimhin came up and trained with us and he was a real boy, really a boy – but John was, from the first day, sure he would make it,” the boss continued.
“There was a lot to come, his body had to grow, strength work, all these kind of things. But obviously John saw he is an incredibly intelligent goalkeeper, calm like you cannot believe, which is really important. We have this with Ali as well, you can see that works pretty well if you are really calm.
“He is as calm as Ali and footballing-wise he is a really skilled boy and works incredibly hard. A bit unfortunate with injuries here and there, but it is really nice that he could get the games he got and that he could get the final now as well, because we want to have the best possible squad and Caoimh is a very important part of that.
“You want to have the best number two you can have, you can get. And for that he needs games obviously from time to time because he could play anywhere, to be 100 per cent honest, just not here regularly because of Ali. But we have to make sure he really sees his future here as well and that’s why I’m really happy he can play this final.”
Every goal on the road to Wembley
Having debuted for the Reds in the League Cup in September 2019, Kelleher’s career trajectory accelerated as he gained Premier League and Champions League experience last season when required to deputise for Alisson Becker.
Today’s clash with Chelsea will be his eighth start of 2021-22 and Klopp detailed how the No.62 has capitalised on increased opportunities to play to further enhance his reputation.
“He grew in all aspects but of course it is the experience,” said Klopp. “He had already a few games, he had good games, he had tough games as well, like the Arsenal 5-5 where pretty much each shot was a goal. But that is all part of development so that is no problem.
“We never doubted him, not for a second. We judge the potential and then we all try to estimate what quality could result out of that. That depends obviously to the character of somebody and, unfortunately, it depends on luck as well because if you get injured in the wrong moments or too often, that can be a problem for each career. We came through all different things.
“And, of course, this year with the games he had, I’m not sure it’s his ‘best’ year but maybe the one where he could play the most often because we didn’t go out in the first round of the Carabao Cup.
“He always did pretty well and that is exactly what you need as a manager, that you have on all positions top, top, top-class replacements – and in the goal it’s Caoimh.”