Sunday afternoon will mark Liverpool Football Club's record-setting twelfth appearance in the League Cup final. They've won it all nine times, most recently in 2012 under the watchful eye of Kenny Dalglish, beating Cardiff City in a penalty shoot-out. (Update: NASA's top scientists predict Charlie Adam's penalty effort should be returning to Earth's orbit any day now. *ba-dum tssh*)
As is their want, the team took the hard way 'round to book their spot in the final. Their campaign began with an uninspiring win against Carlisle United that required a penalty shoot-out to decide the victors. After that were two victories under Klopp, including a clinical win against Bournemouth and the 6-1 drubbing of Southampton in the quarterfinals. The two-legged semi-final against Stoke City came in January when the team was worn out from their busy festive schedule. The first game at the Britannia Stadium saw Philippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren, and Kolo Touré all limp off injured, followed by the announcement soon after that match-winner Jordon Ibe had also fallen prey to injury. While Liverpool did finally come out victorious over Stoke, it took another penalty shoot-out to make it happen, despite the Reds going into the second match at Anfield with a one goal advantage.
It's been a long, difficult, oftentimes grueling road to Wembley in this competition, but now Klopp's men are set to become the first Liverpool team in four years to make it into a cup final. Under Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool squad of 2011-2012 made it into both domestic cup finals. They won the League Cup, but lost the FA Cup to Chelsea three months later.
Standing in Liverpool's way this year is Manchester City, a team that has competed in four League Cup finals and won three of them, the last coming in 2014 when they came from behind to beat Sunderland. Lame duck manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping to get one more trophy under his belt before handing over the reins to Pep Guardiola this summer. The players, similarly, will want something to sweeten up what has been a disappointing season thus far. They sit just fourth in the league table behind Leicester, Tottenham, and Arsenal (what a time to be alive), a far cry from where they'd no doubt expected to be when the season began.
Surprisingly, though the two teams have faced each other eight times in earlier stages of cup competitions, this will be the first ever cup final between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Both teams managed important wins in European competitions this week. Liverpool secured a place in the last 16 of the Europa League, while Manchester City got a motivating victory over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of the Champion's League round of 16. While City get an extra day's rest, having played on Wednesday, they had to travel to the Ukraine for their match. They also played an extra game in the FA Cup last weekend, when Pellegrini fielded a young team that got destroyed 5-1 by Chelsea. Liverpool, on the other hand, hosted FC Augsburg at Anfield on Thursday and have the advantage of not traveling this week or of playing last weekend.
In an odds-defying stroke of luck, both of City and Liverpool's perpetually-injured star strikers should be available for this match. Sergio Agüero and Daniel Sturridge (tap wood) are both likely to start on Sunday, which should make for an exciting match. Missing from City's line-up, however, will be Samir Nasri, Kevin de Bruyne, and Fabian Delph, who are all out with long-term injuries. It's possible that ex-Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling will be back in contention for a place in the side, along with captain Vincent Kompany and Bacary Sagna. Wilfried Bony and Jesus Navas are both expected to return.
Clyne/ Touré/ Sakho/ Moreno
Henderson/ Can/ Milner
Expect to see few chances from the team that beat FC Augsburg on Thursday. The fact that Lucas started at center-back in that game implies that Touré was being rested because neither of Skrtel or Lovren are fit to start this match. Of course, the change could have been tactical on Klopp's part, or down to fatigue in the player, and Škrtel or Lovren could join Sakho in the back. However, if Kolo does end up starting, here's hoping for a rousing rendition of the Touré Brothers song from both sets of supporters.
Klopp may also find another place for Lucas Leiva in the starting line up, especially if he's looking for some extra coverage in defense. As unbelievable as it is to think about, this would mark Lucas's first trip to Wembley with the team. He missed the majority of the 2011-2012 campaign after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in October of that season, and therefore wasn't a part of either of Liverpool's cup runs. It would be nice to see such a faithful Liverpool servant finally get his opportunity to play in a final.
Joe Allen and Adam Lallana have come back into contention for Klopp, and so it's possible that we could see Lallana, particularly, worked into the starting XI.
Kevin Stewart remains out indefinitely, though he was unlikely to play in this match either way. Jordan Rossiter may be ready as early as next week. Joe Gomez and Danny Ings are out for the season.
Kickoff is set for 4:30PM GMT/11:30AM EST Sunday. Television coverage will be on Sky Sports 1/HD in the UK and beIN Sports for the US. Elsewhere, beIN Sports Australia in Australia, beIN Sports Canada in Canada, TEN Action in India, Eleven Singapore in Singapore, and SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. Online streaming is also available with beIN Sports Connect in the US and Sky GO Extra in the UK. For Online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO and TalkSport Radio World.
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.