Wembley final gives Klopp, Pellegrini chance to shine
By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) - With Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini on his way out of the club and Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp just settling in, Sunday's League Cup final offers both coaches the chance to underline their worth.
For Pellegrini, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the season's end, the match is one of his three remaining chances to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet he has helped stock in nearly three seasons at the club.
City's League Cup success in 2014 came towards the end of the Chilean's first year in charge and was swiftly followed by the Premier League title. Another success on Sunday would allow him to walk away from the job with his head held high.
Even if the trophy remains the lowest of City's priorities, it is perhaps their best chance of success in a season that has recently spluttered.
Since it was announced that Bayern Munich boss Guardiola would be assuming control at the Etihad Stadium, City have lost back-to-back league games to slip six points off the lead and exited the FA Cup with a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Chelsea.
That match, and Pellegrini's decision to rest almost his entire first-choice team, was a calculated gamble by the City manager that his injury-hit squad could not compete in four competitions.
He has been explicit that the Champions League and Premier League remain the priorities and how much he prizes those trophies over the League Cup will become visible in Sunday's team selection.
He hinted on Friday, however, that he was unlikely to make wholesale changes with silverware on the line.
“To win a title in February gives you a lot of trust to continue fighting for other competitions,” he told reporters.
For Liverpool boss Klopp, the incentive is not handing a parting gift to supporters but writing his name in the club's record books for delivering a trophy in double quick time.
Four months and 20 days since he joined the club, Klopp will lead his side out at Wembley looking to lift a major trophy just 143 days into his reign.
"Anything that you can imagine is possible, you can dream," he said. "I have some nice pictures in my mind. We will get chances and to use them will be the key."
Liverpool are record eight-times winners of the League Cup, but have gone four years without a major trophy since their victory over Cardiff City in 2012 in the same competition.
Klopp's side have produced performances ranging from the majestic to the mediocre in his short time at the club with a 4-1 win over City at the Etihad Stadium in November, arguably the highest of the highs.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)