Liverpool and Chelsea face off in the Carabao Cup final this Sunday at Wembley looking to win the first major domestic trophy of the season. Chelsea, fresh from winning the Club World Cup earlier this month, are looking for a sixth League Cup triumph. Eight-time winners Liverpool are looking for a record-breaking ninth and their first domestic cup triumph since 2012. Express Sport conjures up a combined XI for the final.
Liverpool No 1 Alisson would be the usual choice between the sticks but he has only played once in the Carabao Cup this season and will not start the final. Caoimhin Kelleher will instead.
Though the Irishman is a dependable back-up, it has to be Senegal’s Edouard Mendy – recent winner of the Africa Cup of Nations – in goal.
Mendy is likely to start the final after coming in for the Club World Cup final after Kepa Arrizabalaga had played in the semi-final. Tuchel has said he will not be sentimental despite the Spaniard starting every League Cup game this season so far.
Mendy has kept 39 clean sheets, and conceded just 48 goals, in 73 appearances since joining Chelsea 18 months ago and is arguably the best shot-stopper in England outside of Alisson and City’s Ederson.
Full-backs: Alexander-Arnold, Robertson
With Ben Chilwell out for the season and Reece James only just returning from injury, Liverpool’s extraordinary full-back duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson make our XI.
Right-back Alexander-Arnold leads the Premier League in assists this season with 10 and is poised to break his own record for the most assists by a defender in a single campaign of 12. He also has two goals.
Left-back Robertson is equally as dangerous on the opposite side and has nine league assists, with the pair simply better options than Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Centre-backs: Silva, Van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk’s injury absence was sorely felt by Liverpool last season but the Dutchman is now back to his very best and has been imperious of late.
He is a natural pick here but there is plenty of competition for the other position alongside him, with Thiago Silva, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate and Antonio Rudiger all very credible choices.
Express Sport have however gone for the veteran Silva, who even at the age of 37 is a huge part of the Chelsea defence as the centrepiece of the three-man back-line, and up the other end he even has three goals this season, as does Van Dijk.
Midfield three: Fabinho, Kante, Thiago
Though he finished third in the 2021 Ballon d’Or voting in December, Fabinho starts in the holding midfield role for this combined eleven. On top of his dominant defensive form, he also has six goals, only two of which have been penalties. All of Jorginho’s nine have come from the spot.
Front three: Mane, Jota, Salah
Chelsea’s Mount can also feature out wide in the front three while Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic are decent options on the flanks.
None of the trio – nor Liverpool new boy Luiz Diaz despite a bright start on Merseyside – make it here. Instead it is Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah who start on the left and right respectively.
Salah is currently the best player in the world with 37 direct goal contributions in 31 games this term while Mane is just shy of a goal or an assist in one of every two matches.
Diogo Jota is expected to be fit enough to make Liverpool’s match-day squad and the 17-goal Portuguese leads the line given Romelu Lukaku’s struggles since his return to Stamford Bridge.
Kai Havertz is showing huge promise at Chelsea but is still not as consistently impactful as Jota and so misses out.
Express Sport’s full combined Carabao Cup final XI: Mendy; Alexander-Arnold, Silva, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Kante; Salah, Jota, Mane.
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