For the second year in a row, Liverpool have made it through to the League Cup semi-finals. This time, they're set to face off against Stoke City in the two-legged tie, and they'll hope the outcome is better than when they battled Chelsea in the semis last season. Tuesday's first leg sees the team head to the Britannia Stadium to play out the "cold, rainy Tuesday night in Stoke" cliche for our enjoyment. Hurray?
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was piping mad on Saturday, and rightly so, when his team crumbled against West Ham in an embarrassing and mistake-ridden display best left to the annals of time. For this game, he'll be demanding to see a positive reason from the players.
People can scoff that this game is "only" the League Cup, but any semi-final game is important, and Liverpool haven't won any silverware since they beat Cardiff City on penalties in this very competition under Kenny Dalglish back in 2011. Though already popular, the best way to truly endear himself to the Liverpool faithful is for Klopp to help Liverpool put some new silverware in their display case. Brendan Rodgers, despite his best efforts, was unable to accomplish this, and fans are becoming anxious as the time between trophies lengthens. The League Cup is their best chance to fix this.
Stoke City will be looking to right some wrongs after they too suffered a disappointing weekend. They went down to 10 men and then lost at the death to former manager Tony Pulis's West Brom -- a defeat which likely leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many Stoke fans.
As a result of that game, they'll be without the services of Geoff Cameron when they welcome Liverpool on Tuesday, thanks to the American midfielder seeing red in the 83rd minute. [Edit: apparently his red card has been rescinded. Man, Stoke fans definitely have a reason to be bitter about that result, huh?] Despite the anomaly of having conceded five goals in their last two games, Stoke City have been consistently hard to break down this season. Their goalkeeper, Jack Butland, is tied for second in clean sheets so far with seven.
In order for Liverpool to achieve a result, they must be much more clinical than they have been over the past month or so.
The last time that Liverpool faced Stoke City was on opening day. They won 1-0 that day, but it was a win entirely without conviction, and one that required plenty of luck. Hopefully the team that battered Southampton 6-1 to qualify for the semi-finals will be the one that shows up, instead of the one that limped its way to a disappointing 2-0 loss against West Ham on Saturday. With an easier FA Cup 3rd round game against Exeter awaiting the team next, Klopp will be expected to field a strong line up for this match.
Clyne/ Lovren/ Sakho/ Moreno
Lallana/ Coutinho/ Ibe
Adam Bogdan, who saw the team through the competition so far, will likely be replaced for this match by Simon Mignolet and instead start against Exeter on Friday. Benteke is struggling and may start this game on the bench. Lallana was rested against West Ham in preparation for this game.
Jordan Henderson remains out for an unknown amount of time. James Milner may be available for selection, but more likely is that we'll have to wait until Friday to see his return to the side. Likewise Daniel Sturridge, who still has another week or so before he'll be deemed fit. Poor Jon Flanagan, after making his return in the U-21s, is out for another two weeks with more knee problems. Martin Skrtel, Divock Origi, and Jordan Rossiter are also out. Danny Ings and Joe Gomez remain sidelined for the rest of the season.
Kickoff is set for 8:00PM BST/3:00PM EST Tuesday. Television coverage will be on Sky Sports 1/HD UK in the UK and BeIN Sports USA in America. Elsewhere BeIN Sports Canada in Canada, BeIN Sports and BeIN Sports Connect Australia in Australia, and SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. For Online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO.
We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.