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Chelsea logo
EFL Cup | Final
Feb 25, 2024 at 3pm UK
Stamford Bridge
Liverpool logo

0 - 1

Chilwell (45+3'), Palmer (120+2')
van Dijk (118')
Bradley (45+3'), Mac Allister (81'), Konate (82'), McConnell (107'), Gomez (120+3')

EFL Cup final: Chelsea vs. Liverpool Combined XI

Ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads.

The first domestic honour of the campaign is awaiting its next custodian on Sunday afternoon, as Chelsea and Liverpool fight for the right to be crowned 2023-24 EFL Cup winners at Wembley.

Jurgen Klopp's unit have defeated Leicester City, Bournemouth, West Ham United and Fulham to make it to their record 14th final, where they will endeavour to clinch an unrivalled 10th crown in the competition.

Meanwhile, the Blues - who entered the EFL Cup one stage earlier owing to their absence of European football - have navigated their way beyond AFC Wimbledon, Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough to earn another Wembley date with Liverpool, against whom they have some wrongs to right.

Sunday's affair will be a repeat of the 2021-22 EFL Cup final - which the Reds won on penalties before an identical success in the FA Cup showpiece - and Klopp's men ran riot versus Mauricio Pochettino's crop in a 4-1 Premier League win just a few weeks ago.

Neither team enters Sunday's contest in tip-top shape due to injuries, though - Liverpool are especially hard hit on the availability front - and with that in mind, Sports Mole selects a combined XI from both squads, using only players expected to be available for the encounter.

CHE-LIV combined XI

On account of the thigh injury he sustained before Liverpool's 4-1 Premier League crushing of Brentford, Alisson Becker - who would have waltzed into this XI - will not be at Klopp's disposal for the EFL Cup final, where Caoimhin Kelleher will instead guard the Reds' net. The 25-year-old has already played every minute of the ongoing tournament, albeit while failing to keep a clean sheet, and memorably won the 12-yard battle of nerves with Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 2021-22 shootout - he gets our vote over Djordje Petrovic and a newly-fit Robert Sanchez.

In addition to Alisson, Liverpool's vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold must cede his place in the Reds' squad due to a knee concern, while Chelsea skipper Reece James remains out of contention too. Both Malo Gusto and Conor Bradley have shown plenty of promise in the ongoing campaign, but the latter has already become an Anfield fan favourite with one goal and five assists in all tournaments, opening his account for the club with a fine strike across goal in January's 4-1 beating of the Blues.

Injuries have also hampered the campaigns of both Andrew Robertson and Ben Chilwell on the left-hand side of the backline, and they only boast one goal and two assists between them in the current campaign. The former is still waiting for his first EFL Cup appearance of the new term too, but he belatedly returned to his playmaking ways in midweek - providing the assist for Luis Diaz's effort versus Luton Town - and just edges out both the Chelsea man and Joe Gomez for a spot in the selection.

None of Joel Matip, Wesley Fofana nor Benoit Badiashile will be available this weekend, and while Thiago Silva might shake off a concern of his own to marshal the Blues backline, his age has begun to show. In contrast, Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk has largely returned to his imperious ways at the back for Liverpool - catastrophe at the Emirates aside - and sparked the Reds comeback against Luton with a trademark header, overtaking Sami Hyypia for the most Premier League goals scored at Anfield by a defender. Alongside the 32-year-old, his first-choice partner Ibrahima Konate has contributed one assist to Liverpool's run to the final and, touch wood, appears to have banished his injury demons. While Axel Disasi's monstrous display against Manchester City deserves a mention, his lack of consistency means he loses out to his compatriot.

While the defence is completely red-clad, the midfield trifecta is predominantly blue, as there was no overlooking the exceptional Cole Palmer. The 21-year-old's decision to depart Manchester City for first-team guarantees at Stamford Bridge has been well and truly vindicated - evidenced by 12 goals and nine assists in all tournaments - including two strikes and two assists in four EFL Cup affairs.

Palmer's £42.5m price tag has been justified, but his teammate Enzo Fernandez still has some way to go to proving his £106m worth. Nevertheless, the Argentine continues to play the role of pass master in the Blues engine room and has often popped up with crucial final-third contributions, bagging two goals in the EFL Cup and seven across all tournaments, and eight shots on target is the joint-most in the 2023-24 edition of the former competition. Moises Caicedo, Conor Gallagher, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo - an honourable mention - were left out to make room for the Argentine.

However, there is space for one Reds representative in the midfield trident in the shape of Alexis Mac Allister, whose attacking capabilities have often been reined in as Liverpool's number six, but he has relished the freedom of the final third this month alone. After poking home away to Brentford, the Argentine provided two fine deliveries for Van Dijk and Cody Gakpo to nod home against Luton and will be pulling Wembley strings if Klopp opts to deploy Endo behind him.

Now comes the tricky part. While Diogo Jota is a guaranteed absentee, two shoo-ins for the attack - Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez - are both uncertain at the time of writing due to injuries; Pep Lijnders revealed in his pre-game press conference that both men would require late fitness tests. However, one space in the offensive line is already reserved for Chelsea's Raheem Sterling, who has both scored and assisted in the Premier League, EFL Cup and FA Cup this season for 16 goal contributions overall.

As we wait to see whether Salah and Nunez are given the green light or not, a pair of their fellow Liverpool attackers have earned the right to deputise for them in this injury-ravaged selection. Cody Gakpo leads the way for the Reds in terms of EFL Cup goals this season with four - only behind Morgan Rogers's five for Middlesbrough - and is currently in line to spearhead the Reds' charge at Wembley. The Dutchman had netted in each of his first four EFL Cup appearances this term before drawing a blank in the semi-final second leg at Fulham, where Luis Diaz instead shouldered the goalscoring burden to ensure a slender aggregate success for the Merseyside team, and the Colombian arrives at Wembley with the intention of adding to the respectable 10 goals and five assists already under his belt in 2023-24.

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Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring for Liverpool on February 17, 2024
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