No matter how impressive the performances, Liverpool weren't comprehensive enough to advance to the League Cup final, and that's now two chances at silverware gone. The FA Cup and Europa League remain, and depending on how Brendan Rodgers handles the reintegration of Daniel Sturridge, it's easy to see them making a run in both. For now, though, the focus must shift back to Premier League action, and while another run at a league title is gone, they're poised to make further progress on the back of improved form in the past month.
Tomorrow's match against is the first in a stretch that will see them face four sides above them in the table in their next five matches. West Ham are the surprise of the lot and are just a point ahead, but Sam Allardyce's squad comprehensively beat Liverpool in the reverse fixture and have continued a strong season. They're unbeaten since the start of the new year after closing out 2014 with consecutive losses to Chelsea and Arsenal, and they've secured progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup with wins over Everton and Bristol City in January.
They've managed to mostly remain healthy, but questions persist about the availability of two Senegal internationals in Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate. Sakho did not join Senegal at the AFCON due to injury but featured and scored the winner over Bristol City, leading his country to register a complaint with FIFA that could lead to a ban. Kouyate had been missing after he did join the national team, but Allardyce has reportedly tracked him down and could include him tomorrow. Any other concerns about player availability are short-term, as Alex Song, James Tomkins, Carl Jenkinson, James Collins, and Joey O'Brien are all late decisions.
Allardyce has benefited from a strong season by the suddenly versatile Stewart Downing, and Andy Carroll has gained in influence over the winter and gotten on the score sheet as well. Both should start tomorrow; at Bristol City last weekend they lined up with Adrian in goal, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Tomkins, and Jenkinson across the back, Song, Downing, Kevin Nolan, and Mark Noble in the midfield, and Carroll up front with Enner Valencia. Sakho featured off the bench along with Morgan Almafitano and Guy Demel.
Can Skrtel Lovren
Johnson Henderson Lucas Moreno
Tuesday's second-leg against Chelsea left Liverpool clearly tired and with questions about the fitness of Mamadou Sakho, and while the French central defender moved to assure supporters that he should be available for selection tomorrow his manager didn't sound quite as confident yesterday. Daniel Sturridge should be in the squad for the first time since August after making it through his return to training unscathed, which leaves only Brad Jones and Jon Flanagan as confirmed absences.
Despite some tired legs it wouldn't be surprising to see Rodgers opt for a only a few changes, with a defensive unit that should mostly look the same. If Sakho isn't fit a return to the starting eleven for Dejan Lovren is expected, as Glen Johnson was very, very poor in a cameo on the left side of the three-man back line midweek. Emre Can and Martin Skrtel should retain their places with Simon Mignolet, who's been increasingly impressive in recent weeks, starting in goal.
Both Lucas and Jordan Henderson tired visibly at Stamford Bridge, but unless the manager decides to bring Joe Allen in for another start or bring Emre Can forward, they look likely to partner again. It wouldn't be surprising to see Lazar Markovic on the bench for a bit of a breather, and if that's the case it's hard to shake the feeling that Johnson would be the leading candidate (in Rodgers' mind, not necessarily anyone else's) at right wingback and Alberto Moreno continuing on the left.
After Tuesday there should be a rest for Steven Gerrard as well, giving Adam Lallana an opportunity after he wasn't used against Chelsea. This would given him and Philippe Coutinho another chance to rebuild their partnership just off the central striker, which had looked impressive before it was interrupted by Lallana's absence through injury. That striker will likely be Raheem Sterling, as tomorrow might come too early for Sturridge. He will hopefully make an appearance at some point, but it's hard to see him playing much more than one half of football after not featuring in a competitive match since the season's first month.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST on Saturday, with NBC Sports Premier League Extra Time/NBC Sports Live Extra providing coverage in the US. Our coverage will continue with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into live coverage tomorrow, with team sheets an hour before kickoff, full viewing options, and post-match reaction. If you haven’t already, sign up for an SBNation account and join us for it.