The First Road to Wembley
Liverpool manager Hachiman Hikigaya could be in line to lift his first ever trophy after his side fought their way past Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur to secure a place in the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium next month.
The in-form Londoners held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw earlier in January, but the Reds struck back at Anfield in the second leg, cruising to a 5-2 aggregate victory with Martin Skrtel, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho all finding the net
Christian Eriksen had equalized in the 20th minute to cancel out Skrtel's opener, blowing the game wide open. However, Liverpool looked a different team after half-time, putting 3 goals past Spurs to smash their hopes of appearing in a second consecutive League Cup Final.
Meanwhile, fans hoping for a mouthwatering clash between two bitter rivals have been left severely disappointed after Swansea pulled off a major upset to knock out Manchester United in the other Semi Final fixture.
The Welsh outfit went into the second leg three goals behind, but they managed to pull off an astonishing 3-0 comeback before going on to win the tie via penalty shootout.
However, for the upcoming game at Wembley, there is no doubt that Liverpool will still be certain favorites to lift the League Cup, a trophy that they have not won since 2012 under Kenny Dalglish.
Coutinho, arguably the standout performer for Liverpool this tournament, will be counted upon to repeat his feats against Spurs.
Coutinho and Sturridge are two of Liverpool's most prized assets
The fleet-footed Brazilian starred in the first leg, assisting his side's equalizer after Ryan Mason's converted penalty and was awarded a Man of the Match for his efforts.
Despite being benched for the second leg, he still managed to score a goal after coming on as a 56th minute substitute, effectively hammering the final nail into Spurs' coffin.
Coutinho's partner-in-crime, Sturridge, must also not be forgotten. The prolific striker, bar several injury niggles, has been fantastic ever since returning from a long-term hip problem. He currently has 15 goals in 19 appearances this season and will be hoping to add to that tally next month against the Swans.
In his post-match press conference, Reds boss Hikigaya showered praise on his team, yet at the same time urged for improvement in the Premier League.
"It's not easy to make it this far and I'm proud that we've gotten this chance to play in the Final," said the 22-year-old. "The team has been doing very well in the cups and hopefully this can continue until the end of the season. There are a lot of trophies that we can still get and I'm confident that we can get all of them.
According to Hikigaya, there is a need for Liverpool to improve in the Premier League
"I also can't talk about tournaments without talking about the Premier League. Of course we are also doing not too badly in the league so far but there have been some silly results here and there, games where we really should have gotten all three points. That is an area that we desperately need to improve."
When asked, Hikigaya also acknowledged the contributions of Coutinho, although he stopped short of dubbing the number 10 as Liverpool's best player.
"Yes, I think Coutinho has been very important to us this season. It's easy to say that because you can all see what he did for us in the matches against Tottenham. He's a great player and I'm happy to have him in the squad.
"If we're talking about the best player in Liverpool then no, I can't really say. I think everyone here has their own qualities. I don't like to single anyone out."
Liverpool have lost some ground in the title race this month following a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace. The Reds sit at 3rd place in the table, just above Arsenal on goal difference and eight points behind Tottenham and Manchester United.
Aside from the League Cup Final, they are also due to contest the Fourth Round of the FA Cup against Wolves and the Europa League First Knockout Round against Turkish side Trabzonspor.