The semi-finals! Right or wrong, this is about the time many Reds fans start taking the League Cup seriously. A shot at Wembley and silverware is just a two-legged tie away, and the occasion promises to be exceptionally enticing, with arch-rivals Manchester United likely to feature in that final if they can get past Hull City’s Tigers — those of 44 goals conceded in 20 matches fame — in their own tie.
First, though, Liverpool must overcome Southampton with the first leg taking place at St. Mary's on Wednesday. After a defensively stalwart start to the season, the Saints lost all three of their holiday fixtures to the tune of a 2-9 goal difference, sliding into mid-table obscurity and tenth place, a full twenty points behind Liverpool. The southerners should not be taken lightly, however, as they produced an excellent display to dispatch Arsenal in the quarter-finals, beating the Londoners 2-0 at The Emirates, continuing their spotless run of clean sheet wins in the tournament.
The Reds are in a patchy bit of form themselves, having only won four of their last eight, including frustrating draws to Sunderland and West Ham amid satisfying wins over Everton and Manchester City. January looks to be a testing month for Liverpool's fitness and strength in depth, with a total of eight fixtures to be played, the latter six over the course of a mere twenty days. Squad rotation will be required, though this likely won't be the occasion for it.
Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner
Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum
Origi, Sturridge, Firmino
Jürgen Klopp has confirmed that Loris Karius is likely to retain his spot in goal following Sunday's clash with Plymouth. Philippe Coutinho is also likely to get minutes, but is probably not fit to start, and — with Sadio Mané having departed for the AFCoN — Klopp will need to make do with what he has left up top.
Jordan Henderson is expected to return to team training later this week and will probably be saved for the Manchester United clash on Sunday, and the same goes for Joël Matip, which will likely mean Emre Can and Ragnar Klavan get another chance to impress as part of the starting XI. Otherwise, expect a strong side consisting mainly of the same players penciled in to start at Old Trafford.
Kickoff is set for 7:45PM GMT/2:45PM EST Wednesday on Sky Sports 1/HD in the UK and beIN Sports in the US. You can find full listings at LivesoccerTV.
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.