The 2022 Carabao Cup Final is poised to be one of the most thrilling yet, according to former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock.
One of the Warnock’s former teams, the Reds, will lock horns with Chelsea at Wembley Stadium next month, and the 40-year-old is looking forward to one of the biggest games on the football calendar.
“It’s a spectacle, involving two giants of the game, going toe-to-toe,” he emphasised. “You’ve probably got two of the best managers in world football, two elite managers going at it too. The way the fans support both teams is incredible, there’s a healthy rivalry there between the two teams because they both want and expect success. That makes for an incredible Final.
“Winning trophies is important, and the fans will be delighted to be going back to Wembley and hoping to see their club win silverware. It’s always important to be involved in these games and that’s the mentality you have to have as a top team.”
Warnock, who came through the ranks at Liverpool before moving on from Merseyside for pastures new, turned out for Aston Villa in the 2010 Final, when the West Midlands team went down 2-1 to Manchester United.
James Milner’s fifth-minute penalty gave Warnock’s side an early lead before United came from behind to break Villa hearts.
“I look back at that game and think ‘if only’ and that’s the way I always think, because I’d loved to have won this competition as a player,” he recalled. “The occasion, the lead-up to the game and the anticipation is such a proud thing, it’s incredible to play a part in a major cup final and that’s something I grew up dreaming of as a kid.
“I’m sure Chelsea and Liverpool players will be exactly the same, because it’s a chance to look back and remember an occasion that is so, so special. It’s such a big day.”
However, the ex-England international insisted that the Final, pencilled for 27 February, will be a difficult one to call.
“I think it will be very close,” he said. “You only have to look at the games between them recently to see they’re top-quality teams who bring out the best in each other. I think it will be interesting to see the form book going into the Final but expect it to be so close. It wouldn’t surprise me if it went to penalties.”
Wins over Norwich City, Preston North End, Leicester City saw the Reds reach the Semi-Final, where Arsenal awaited.
Liverpool saw off the Gunners on a 2-0 aggregate score-line with Diogo Jota at the double in the second leg at the Emirates Stadium to book their place in the Final, after firing a blank in the first leg at Anfield.
“Liverpool were so strong. Diogo Jota was in sensational form and you have to give credit to Jürgen Klopp for the bravery and trust he showed in playing the likes of Kelleher, who made a huge save. He’s been vital in the competition this season and it’s been a big tournament for someone like him to show the manager what he’s capable of. We know the qualities that Liverpool have got. Their front three or four, when they click, they’re incredible.”
Chelsea, on the other hand, have beaten Aston Villa, Southampton and Brentford along the way, before facing off against Tottenham Hotspur in the Semi-Final.
And Warnock highlighted the Blues’ strength-in-depth which could help the West Londoners combat their hectic schedule.
“Chelsea are a top team,” he explained. “Chelsea can put in incredible defensive displays when called upon, but they also have an attacking threat. When they click, they’re a formidable team to play against.
“Coming up to the Final, they’ve had a busy period in January but will be well rested before the Final. Yes, they’ve got games before then including the Club World Cup, but I think Thomas Tuchel will manage his players as well as he can."