Marco Silva is looking to guide Fulham to the Carabao Cup final, but they must first overturn a 2-1 deficit against Liverpool at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night.
The Portuguese has revealed last season’s embarrassing Carabao Cup exit to Crawley has spurred Fulham on to the semi-finals this year.
The Cottagers host Liverpool on Wednesday night trailing 2-1 on aggregate as they aim to reach a first major domestic cup final since 1975.
Silva’s side led at Anfield in the first leg before conceding twice in three minutes to find themselves as the underdogs to reach Wembley.
This season’s cup journey is a far cry from their 2-0 loss to Crawley in the second round last August, where Silva made 10 changes from their previous Premier League game.
“My ambition is to always play cup competitions and go further,” Silva said on the eve of the tie.
“Last season we were promoted and we played in the quarter-final of the FA Cup and our aim was always to go further – of course it’s important to recognise that the Premier League was the main thing.
“But at the same time, when we played the other competitions we were trying to be strong enough – the first game in the Carabao was really poor last season.
“It was a good moment to speak with the players about what I demand from them and what we demand from any competitions that you play in the future.”
Silva has taken charge of 229 games in England across spells at Hull, Watford, Everton and Fulham.
The 46-year-old also reached the Greek Cup final with Olympiakos in 2016, having won the Taca de Portugal with Sporting the season before.
But he admits the visit of Liverpool and the potential for a first game as a manager at Wembley means this is one of the biggest nights of his managerial career in England.
“It is one of them, yes,” he replied. “I did play a [League Cup] semi-final with Hull City as well against Manchester United but, if you ask me right now, I would prefer to have another more important one in one month’s time or two months’ time.”
Lijnders: Playing finals is the most important thing for a team to develop
As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp’s side are likely to be without Mohamed Salah until the middle of next month whatever the outcome of his rehabilitation, although there is more positive news on the club’s long list of absentees.
Left-back Andy Robertson, who has been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder since October, is in the squad as Liverpool look to book their place at Wembley.
Not ready for this game, but probably for the weekend, are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai, with Kostas Tsimikas another two weeks away from recovering fully from a broken collarbone.
But it is Robertson’s long-awaited return which will be a big boost.
“Robbo is now 13 weeks after surgery and he got clearance to train fully with the team, can make contact as the bone has healed and that’s really cool,” said assistant manager Pep Lijnders.
“I just met him in the canteen and he said, ‘Pep, I’ve brought my tracksuit with me today’. He only trained once, but he is pushing himself into the squad.
“Medical team say it’s a coaching decision – so he’s in.”
Liverpool just need to avoid defeat at Craven Cottage to book a return to Wembley two years after they won a domestic cup double.
“Playing finals is the most important thing for a team to develop. Playing in a semi-final in January is great and being able to reach Wembley is unbelievable,” said Ljnders.
“All these things have an impact on development.”
Salah has the most goal involvements. Virgil van Dijk is back to his imperious best. Alisson is again in contention for the golden glove and Alexander-Arnold is excelling in his hybrid role.
But perhaps the most impressive performances for Liverpool this season have come from their manager, Jurgen Klopp…
Last time out at Anfield…
The key Carabao Cup semi-final numbers
- Liverpool have progressed to the final on eight of the nine previous occasions they have won the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final tie. The exception was in 1997-98, being eliminated by Middlesbrough after winning the first leg at Anfield 2-1.
- Fulham are winless in their last five home games against Liverpool (D2 L3) since a 1-0 win in the Premier League in December 2011.
- If they qualify, Fulham would be the 37th different team to reach the EFL Cup final, and first maiden finalists since Bradford and Swansea in 2012-13. Only 25 per cent of teams to lose the first leg of a semi-final tie have reached the final (23/92).
- If Liverpool avoid defeat they will reach the EFL Cup final for a record 14th time, at least four more than any other side. The Reds have conceded in all four of their wins in the competition this season – the last team to win more consecutively without keeping a clean sheet were Tottenham (6 between the 2007-08 semi-final second leg and 2008-09 semi-final first leg).
- As a Premier League side, Fulham have won six of their last seven EFL Cup home games (D1), with their last such defeat coming against Bolton in September 2007 (1-2).
- Liverpool have won just two of their last 10 EFL Cup games played in London (D3 L5), beating Chelsea 2-0 in November 2011 and Arsenal 2-0 in January 2022.
- Fulham have opened the scoring in all five of their EFL Cup games this season. Willian put them 1-0 ahead in the first leg against Liverpool – only two players have scored in both legs of a League Cup semi-final tie against the Reds, with John Robertson (Nottingham Forest, 1979-80) and Paul Merson (Middlesbrough, 1997-98) doing so.
- Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez has been involved in five goals in six appearances in the EFL Cup (1 goal, 4 assists), averaging a goal or assist every 59 minutes. No player has more assists in the competition this season than the Uruguayan (3), including two as a sub in the first leg against Fulham.
How to follow
Do not forget that you can watch Fulham vs Liverpool in the Carabao Cup live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event from 7pm on Wednesday night, with kick-off at 8pm, while you can also follow the game via our minute-by-minute match blog on both the Sky Sports app and website, with in-game clips and goals as they go in from Craven Cottage.
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