Ever since Liverpool and Manchester City won decisive victories in their quarterfinal matches of the 2015/16 Football League Cup, soccer pundits have been predicting that the two Premier League clubs would end up head-to-head for the tournament's championship match. On February 28th, that battle will come to pass-though reaching the final wasn't as easy for either club as might have been expected.
The Road to the Finals
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool squad have been inconsistent and unpredictable all season, not just in the Premier League, but in other competitions as well. In the quarterfinals of the League Cup, the Reds smashed top-flight opponents Southampton 6-1, with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi giving standout performances to collectively score five of the six goals.
In the semifinals, though, Liverpool again looked limp-despite the fact that they were facing Stoke City, a soccer club more or less on the same level as Southampton. Liverpool did win the first leg against Stoke, with Jordan Ibe providing the one goal in a 1-0 snoozer. But Stoke City came back to beat Liverpool at Anfield in the second leg, forcing a penalty shootout to decide who would go to the finals. The Reds ultimately won that shootout, but the 6-5 result was too close for comfort for fans in the Liverpool home jersey 2015/16.
Manchester City, meanwhile, despite having enjoyed a markedly more consistent season than Liverpool in the EPL, also nearly missed out on their finals seat. Though strongly favored over Everton, the Sky Blues lost the first leg of the League Cup semifinals 1-2, sitting scoreless until the 76th minute of the game.
When Everton scored first in the second leg, it looked as if Man City might be in trouble. But an equalizer from Fernandinho leveled the playing field just six minutes later, and timely contributions from two of City's best players in the second half (Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero) helped the football club secure their spot in the League Cup championship match.
The Championship Match: A Preview
On February 28th, Liverpool and Manchester City will take the pitch at Wembley Stadium for the final game of the 2015/16 League Cup. For Liverpool, this game could be an opportunity to show clear progress compared to last season. The Reds lost to Chelsea in the semifinals last season, and their yo-yo pattern in the Premier League has been below expectations for fans and pundits who expected Klopp to turn things around instantaneously. Some silverware from the League Cup would help Klopp show that he is, in fact, improving things at Anfield.
For Manchester City, meanwhile, a League Cup win could be a solid checkpoint on the way to a potential EPL title. Last season, Chelsea won the Cup en route to a top-flight title. The year before, the Sky Blues picked up their third League Cup victory (and their first since 1976) three months before edging out Liverpool to win the Premier League.
So which of these two soccer clubs will find victory at Wembley on February 28th? Arguments could easily be made for either side. On one hand, Manchester City are the most consistent squad and have the better ranking in the EPL. With the Sky Blues considered strong contenders to win the top-flight domestic title this year, it stands to reason that they would pick up a League Cup title as well.
On the other hand, Liverpool beat Manchester City both times the two football clubs met in 2015. In March, the Reds surged to a 2-1 win against the Sky Blues at Anfield, even in the midst of a wildly disappointing season. More recently, on November 21st, Liverpool dealt City one of their worst losses of the season, beating the Sky Blues 4-1 at Etihad Stadium. That match started badly for the hosts, with a seven-minute own goal from Eliaquim Mangala, and only got worse as Liverpool's Roberto Firmino and Phillippe Coutinho teamed for a pair of first-half scores.
Will Liverpool be able to win a third game in a row against Manchester City? Or will the Sky Blues rally to win their second League Cup in the space of three seasons? At Soccer Box, we want to hear your predictions, so find us on social media to share them. We are active multiple social platforms including Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.