Bullish About The Carabao

Saturday 25th Februrary, 3:00pm

Chelsea @ 21/10
Draw @ 5/2
Liverpool @ 23/20
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The carabao is a large bovid ruminant most commonly found in The Philippines, where it is revered for its stoic nature and ability to perform labour-intensive farming tasks.

Its name and likeness is used by the Carabao Energy Drink company – the current sponsors of the EFL Cup.  And the final of that competition takes place at 3pm this Sunday at Wembley Stadium, to be contested between Chelsea and Liverpool.

One can see why such an animal might be chosen as the name and image of an energy drinks company.  Credulous, weak-willed consumers – such as myself – will basically buy any product that makes them believe they are incredibly strong, possess iconic curvaceous horns, and enjoy spending their down-time wallowing in cool mud pools.

‘‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’, is perhaps a more appropriate celebrated literary line to associate with the Anfield chief..’

Stoicism is an admirable quality too.  But it is not one regularly associated with football people, or football managers; for whom apoplectic meltdowns and spittle-drenched, touchline rants are commonplace.  And it is definitely not one shared by the Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp – a raging bull of a man whose inability to control his exhausting, china-shop-smashing desires has helped engender his end-of-season resignation.

Shakespeare claimed that, ‘in time the savage bull doth bear the yoke’…but not the savage Klopp, it seems.  He still hates the yoke.  Just this Wednesday night, for example – following a sluggish first-half display against an increasingly stubborn Luton Town – he turned to rage against his own fans; admonishing them with cyclonic, flailing arms for their perceived lack of support.

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’, is perhaps a more appropriate celebrated literary line to associate with the Anfield chief.

But while Klopp’s descents into mania may be frowned upon by his doctors, this latest frenzy did help turn the footballing tide in his direction – Liverpool eventually running-out 4-1 winners.  And, consequently, they will arrive at Wembley bullish about their Carabao chances; favourites to gift the German an early silver ‘carriage clock’ ahead of his summer departure.

Though Klopp was quick to temper expectations ahead of the weekend – drawing attention to the length of his squad’s hyper-extended injury list – one would still expect his motivational might to give Liverpool a decisive edge.  The Reds will also have recent history on their side: two years ago they narrowly defeated the very same opponents, Chelsea, in the very same competition; 11-10 on penalties.  Caoimhin Kelleher was the hero on that occasion, and may well be called upon to perform outrageous feats again this Sunday.

He will face a very different Chelsea side this time, however.  In fact, of the starting XI in 2022, only Thiago Silva remains at the club; and injury could prevent him from making another final appearance.

Last week’s draw against Manchester City at The Etihad suggests that there are tangible traces of steel in this young and changed Chelsea side, though, so an unstoppable stampede towards glory might not be on the cards for Liverpool.

This weekend’s big double-feature is completed by the Premier League’s biggest game: Arsenal v Newcastle, which is an 8pm kick-off on Saturday.

Arsenal spectacularly failed to hit the bulls-eye in midweek – a big fat 0 shots on target were registered in their 1st leg Champions League knock-out match against Porto.  And this, added to the fact that by the time they begin on Saturday there may be a gap between themselves and the top two, means that pressure will begin to escalate to dangerous levels.  Just like it did last year.

And given that Mikel Arteta, like Klopp, is vulnerable to pitch-side rage – hot jets of bullish steam angrily emanating from his flared nostrils; his hooves repeatedly scraping the turf in a prelude to an explosion – it might be advisable to stand well back.

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