Mauricio Pochettino steps up mind games with Liverpool ahead of Carabao Cup final

In the build-up to Sunday's final showdown between Liverpool and Chelsea, it seems Jurgen Klopp's words have sparked a battle of wits with Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino, as both coaches engage in mind games over who are the favourites to win the clash.

Earlier this week, following Wednesday's 4-1 win over Luton Town, Klopp dismissed the idea that his side were "big favourites" for the final.

The Liverpool boss was quoted by the BBC as saying: "Will we be big favourites? Definitely not."

He went on to stress the number of injury absentees in his squad before acknowledging that "since we [last] played them, they have improved a lot and it will be tricky".

A "clever" move

For some, these quotes have been interpreted as Klopp saying Chelsea are now the favourites to win on Sunday. And the Chelsea boss remarked that this was a "clever" move by his counterpart.

In a light-hearted exchange, the former Spurs and PSG boss joked that his team are also not favourites for the showpiece clash.

The Argentinian said: "Yes, because he is one of the best, with Pep [Guardiola], coaches in the world and he is clever enough, and he knows, that when you arrive and play a final, there are always circumstances that can happen. Of course, if they are not the favourites, then we are not the favourites [laughs]."

However, the 51-year-old then went on to downplay his side's chances, too.

"After eight years, in the last few years, they have the experience to compete like a team and be involved in different finals," he said about Klopp's side.

"For me, our players are not only new in this competition, in the Premier League or the Carabao Cup, but for some of them, it is maybe their first final. That is why it makes them favourites. But he's clever enough to say 50-50."

Injury pile-up

Indeed, Liverpool's status as favourites is not without merit, backed by their impressive recent form.

However, uncertainties persist regarding the availability of key players such as Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai, all of whom face a race against time to prove their fitness.

Meanwhile, Diogo Jota, Alisson, Curtis Jones and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all been definitely ruled out.

Chelsea will find themselves short of options, too. The West Londoners could be without eight players for the trip to Wembley, while Thiago Silva must pass a late fitness test on Saturday.

"Yes, he has a chance," Pochettino said. "Tomorrow, we will see if he is ready to be involved in the game."

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