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Stoke Bigger Than United? Yes, Says Carragher

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Although Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher recognizes the always prevalent excitement surrounding a derby, he thinks the approaching semifinal against Stoke is a more important test for the future of the club.

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Sky Sports analyst Jamie Carragher has not shied away from harsh words about his former club. He has repeated lamented the lack of talent in the squad, and has infamously gone as far to compare Liverpool with Tottenham. He might have been heavily criticized for the statement at the time, but given our relative places on the table at the moment, Spurs fans could feel rightfully offended.

As the world turns their eyes to the approaching Liverpool-Manchester United derby, Carragher argued for some perspective in his Daily Mail column ahead of the match. Instead of getting caught up in the heat of the moment, Carragher attempts to take the long view of the situation, with the hopes that some silverware this season could change the long-term perception surrounding the club.

I'm not worried where they finish this season, whether it is fifth or eighth. What I am bothered about are trophies and that's why Stoke City on January 26 is much bigger for Klopp and Liverpool than a visit from Manchester United.

It is 100 days since Klopp was appointed and before he reaches 150, there is an outstanding chance he could become just their second manager in the last nine years to win a piece of silverware and that would be huge; two of the last three appointments, remember, left without achieving that. This a chance to get a monkey off his back.

How many times is that kind of opportunity going to come around for him? The demands for a Liverpool manager used to revolve around league titles and European Cups but it would be miraculous if Klopp moves the club back to those levels.

It's an interesting take, and the full column is worth the read. Carragher goes on to argue that Klopp has the most difficult rebuilding job of any manager since Shankly was appointed in 1959 because of the shifting financial realities in England's top flight. Moreover, he points out that Klopp needs to work quickly in order to help shift the perception of the club, both domestically and abroad:

I said recently that Liverpool are turning into Spurs, as they don't make the top four, sell their best players and don't win trophies. Until that changes, I will stand by that. Spurs are trying to alter perceptions and that's why I hope Klopp and the club see the importance of the second leg against Stoke.

The Capital One Cup offers a prime chance to restore the winning feeling and another attainable target is the Europa League, particularly with an inviting draw against German side Augsburg in the last 32.

These are the games that really matter for Liverpool. A victory over United would, of course, be enjoyed. This year, however, it wouldn't be enjoyed anywhere near as much as one that would lead the way back to Wembley.

Although Carragher is certainly right about the need to change opinions about the club, I'm not entirely sure the League Cup is the place to do it. What will make the world take notice more: winning a largely overlooked cup competition, or beating the most high-profile team in England? I honestly don't know.

Well, when in doubt, win them both. Problem solved.