Pochettino or Klopp, as glory beckons at Wembley

Today’s League Cup final at Wembley (11pm, Malaysian time) represents Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino’s chance to finally win some silverware in England, while Jurgen Klopp has an opportunity to add to his collection of trophies with Liverpool.

Former Southampton and Tottenham boss Pochettino’s only trophies as manager came when he was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, winning the French Super Cup and French Cup in 2021 and the league title a year later.

He took a one-year sabbatical before joining Chelsea last July, with the former European champion finally coming into form after a disastrous start to the campaign.

Klopp, meanwhile, has attained God-like status for ending Liverpool’s 30-year title drought and for adding the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, FA Cup and League Cup to the club’s trophy cabinet.

The German, however, has announced he will step down at the end of the season and dreams of going out on a high, starting with the League Cup, or Carabao Cup – the name of its current sponsor.

Over the years, Liverpool has won this trophy a record nine times in its many disguises – four years in a row when it was known as the Milk Cup (1981-1984), once as the Coca-Cola Cup (1995), Carling Cup (2012) and Carabao Cup (2022), and twice as the Worthington Cup (2001 and 2003).

Liverpool is top of the English Premier League, into the knockout stage of the UEFA Europa League and the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Chelsea, meanwhile, has won the trophy five times – 1965, 1998, 2005, 2007, and 2015.

The teams met in the final two years ago, with the match ending 0-0 after extra time. Liverpool won an extraordinary penalty shootout 11-10 after every player, bar Chelsea’s then goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, scored.

So, who will win this year?

Businesswoman Wadie Sumanteri, 29, said she backs the Reds to come out on top at Wembley.

“I am going with a 2-0 victory for Liverpool,” said Wadie, who has supported Liverpool for the last five years.

“I am not too sad that Klopp is leaving, as every great manager knows when to go. It is always nice to leave on a high.

“He has the chance to do so if Liverpool wins all four trophies”.

Another Liverpool fan, Darren Wong, 42, is worried about the injuries but is just as confident of winning.

Those ruled out of the final are Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Curtis Jones, Diogo Jota, Thiago Alcantara, Stefan Bajcetic and Ben Doak. There are also doubts surrounding Darwin Nunez, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Mohamed Salah.

“The young players who have come in have exceeded expectations. However, I would feel better if we get Salah and Nunez back,” said Wong.

“Although we beat Chelsea 4-1 a few weeks ago, the final is a different ball game.

“I would not be surprised if we get extra time and penalty kicks. I am hoping for a 2-1 win so we can have an early night!”

Meanwhile, Chelsea supporter G. Aravind is not optimistic, and believes Klopp leaving would give Liverpool players an extra push.

“I am not feeling confident at all,” said Aravind, who works in human resource.

“Chelsea has not beaten Liverpool in the last six matches – five draws and a defeat.

“This is Jurgen’s last season, so the Reds will go all out to win, as the Premier League race could go all the way till the last few games.”

He added that the Chelsea squad lacks the mentality in such big matches as the team is young.

“Jurgen has already beaten Mauricio in a cup final (2019 Champions League). This could be a repeat. I am going for a 2-0 win for Liverpool,” he said.

Unlike Aravind, Adrian Yap is quietly optimistic that Chelsea will win 2-1.

He said Chelsea often struggles against weaker teams but does well when it plays against the top guns in the EPL.

“The only blip was the 4-1 defeat at Anfield a few weeks ago. Other than that, Chelsea holds its own against the top sides,” said Yap, 46.

“We had chances to beat Manchester City last week, but the game ended 1-1.

“Our problem is that we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. But if we can get our act together, I see us winning narrowly.”

Regardless of the outcome, Yap hopes Chelsea allows Pochettino time to mould a formidable team.

“We have some good players who need time to mature. In another two to three years, we will have an awesome team, and I hope Pochettino is still around to enjoy the fruits of his labour.”

Since buying the club in 2022, Todd Boehly has gotten rid of two managers – Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter – and had Bruno Salter as temporary boss and Frank Lampard in a caretaker role.

But Pochettino has brought some stability to the club.

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