League Cup Final: Pellegrini and Klopp both out to make their mark
Pellegrini aims to sign off with a trophy; Klopp looks for silverware to strengthen his position
LEAGUE CUP FINAL
LIVERPOOL v MANCHESTER CITY
(Tomorrow, 12.25am, Singtel TV Ch 109 -ELEVEN)
Old and new will once again collide at Wembley.
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini and his Liverpool counterpart Juergen Klopp face different crossroads in their managerial journey and it means the League Cup final has taken on an even greater significance for both clubs.
Pellegrini's final few months at the Etihad Stadium have become more an exercise in salvation rather than a farewell procession.
An unprecedented quadruple has been downgraded to a fanciful double in the space of just three weeks.
Lagging behind in the race for the English Premier League title, the Chilean's ruthless pragmatism saw him home in on the cup competitions.
A fixture pile-up coupled with an injury crisis saw him field a weakened team in the FA Cup clash with Chelsea and City were duly knocked out, but they have one foot in the last eight of the Champions League.
Obviously, the League Cup showdown with Liverpool represents the best chance of silverware success for City this season.
It would also satisfy Pellegrini's ambition of averaging a minimum of one trophy per year - victory over Klopp's side in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Singapore time) would take his tally to three in as many.
To do so, the real City must stand up and be counted; the one which laid down a marker against Dynamo Kiev in their midweek Champions League encounter.
"We need to put that performance in again," says Kelechi Iheanacho, an unlikely leading light in City's all-star cast.
"We did very well and brought out our best. We played good football, so we need to show the same desire.
"It reflects on the loss we had against Chelsea in the FA Cup. We did very well on Wednesday; everyone came out to play and gave 100 per cent.
"If we reflect that in the final, we'll win."
Where City once turned to the FA Cup to spark their long-awaited renaissance, it has now been denigrated to a mere afterthought.
This season, the League Cup retains a degree of reverence.
Previously, it represented the last major trophy the club lifted before a 35-year silverware drought engulfed the blue half of Manchester.
Now it serves as Pellegrini's last realistic shot at silverware before he is forced to stand aside for Pep Guardiola, his summer replacement.
The 62-year-old has never approached the competition with half-measures. Full strength line-ups and full throttle football have easily intertwined en route to a showpiece final.
Just as they did in the Premier League two seasons ago, however, Liverpool once again stand in their way.
The scars of their humbling by a rampant Liverpool earlier this season remains as fresh in the mind as it did last October.
"We really need to be focused during the game for the whole 90 minutes," warned Jesus Navas.
"There were one or two errors made at key moments in the game, so we're very mindful that we don't want a repeat of that.
"We've learnt from that and, hopefully, with the confidence we've got currently, we will be able to have a focused effort on Sunday."
Liverpool will again have the scent of blood in their nostrils.
Scalping their illustrious Premiership peers has become a hallmark of Klopp's burgeoning tenure this season, not least the thrashing administered to City in their own backyard just weeks into the German's tenure.
With a first trophy in the offing since 2012, Klopp will be desperate for his record to continue.
"For us, we have the same game-plan," revealed Kolo Toure, Liverpool's elder statesman and former City defender.
"Lots of pressing, trying to get the ball under pressure - but City will step up a little bit again for sure.
"We want to win a trophy. Liverpool have not won a trophy for quite a while now."
It will provide Klopp the perfect platform to continue his rebuilding work, but it is hardly going to be easy, against a revived City.