Manuel Pellegrini and Jurgen Klopp face decisive moments in their English football careers as Liverpool take on Manchester City in the League Cup final on Sunday.
City lifted the trophy in 2014 under the Chilean and this weekend’s showdown at Wembley Stadium could offer a final chance at claiming more silverware before he makes way for Pep Guardiola at the end of the season.
Liverpool, meanwhile, won the League Cup for a record eighth time in 2012 and will contest a 12th final, more than any other club, as Klopp aims to seal his first success outside Germany.
City triumphed 4-3 on aggregate against Everton in the semi-finals after a controversial second-leg victory at Etihad Stadium but were thrashed 4-1 in the league by Klopp’s side in the teams’ most recent meeting in November.
And Pellegrini does not want a repeat of the error-strewn display produced by his players as he looks for a triumph which could boost confidence in City’s quest for Premier League and Champions League glory this term.
“To play a final at Wembley against a big team like Liverpool is very important for us, also to win the first trophy of the season,” he said.
“I always want to win all the trophies in which I participate because that is my mentality and it is the mentality of a big club.
“Liverpool made a very good game here at the Etihad but we made a lot of mistakes in the first 15 minutes.”
Pellegrini effectively surrendered his side’s FA Cup hopes in the fifth-round clash with Chelsea last weekend by fielding a hugely inexperienced side in order to rest his senior stars for a difficult week ahead.
That decision paid off when they triumphed 3-1 against Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine on Tuesday to seize control of their Champions League round-of-16 tie and lift morale ahead of the cup final, their first against Liverpool.
Concerns had been raised that the long mid-week journey could affect City’s chances, but Klopp, whose side defeated Augsburg 1-0 in the Europa League’s last 32 on Thursday, says there are neither advantages nor favourites when it comes to the Wembley meeting.
“It’s a final, so nobody cares where you came from or where you played your last game, that’s nothing to think about. There’s no advantage – it’s open,” he said.
“It’s all 100 per cent in finals. These are the two best teams in this cup. This is the logical final.
“It’s not important what I say today, it won’t change the game. It’s only important that we give our best performance in this game and what is possible in this moment.”
City have received positive news on the injury front, with Eliaquim Mangala, Jesus Navas (both hamstring) and Wilfried Bony (calf) available again after recovering from injury.
Captain Vincent Kompany, Bacary Sagna and former Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling should also be fully fit despite training separately on Friday. Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Samir Nasri (hamstring) and Fabian Delph (Achilles) are out.
Klopp has concerns over Adam Lallana (calf), Joe Allen and Martin Skrtel (both hamstring), but Dejan Lovren (illness) could return after sitting out Thursday’s win. Ex-City striker Daniel Sturridge, who started that match, is expected to be fully fit.
Key Opta Stats:
– In cup competition, Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight against Manchester City (W6 D2), last being defeated by them in an FA Cup fourth-round replay in 1973.
– Klopp has now reached a cup final in each of his last five seasons as a manager, but he has lost the last three – the Champions League final at Wembley 2013 and successive DFB-Pokal finals in 2014 and 2015.
– Yaya Toure scored and assisted for City in their last League Cup final, in which they beat Sunderland 3-1.
– Only three players who played in Liverpool’s last League Cup final in 2012 are still at the club – Martin Skrtel, Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique. Skrtel scored Liverpool’s first goal on that day.
– The last eight meetings in all competitions between these sides have produced 32 goals, with both teams finding the net in each match.
– Two of the League Cup finals at the new Wembley Stadium have gone to penalties, with Manchester United beating Tottenham in 2009, before Liverpool’s triumph over Cardiff in 2012.
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