The best part about the League Cup is that no matter how early you enter the tournament, you’re never more than 720 (regulation) minutes from lifting a trophy at Wembley Stadium.
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When Stoke City and Liverpool take the field at the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday, that number will have been whittled all the way down to 270, with a special day out in the capital city just 180 minutes away (League Cup semifinals are contested over two legs). Manchester City and Everton will face one another in the second semifinal, beginning on Wednesday.
Liverpool hoped to have striker Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) back in time for Tuesday’s clash, but manager Jurgen Klopp announced on Monday that the 26-year-old has suffered another setback in his bid to return from injury, despite proclaiming himself “good to go” barely a week ago.
Meanwhile, Stoke manager Mark Hughes is feeling quite confident given his side’s recent run of results (six wins in their last 10 games – all competitions), coupled with Liverpool’s struggles (two wins in their last seven). Said Hughes: “We are very strong at the moment at home and playing exceptionally well there. We are giving good teams like Liverpool real problems. Teams have to be at their best to withstand us at home. It is a game of significance for us, and these are the games we want to be involved in. Hopefully it is the first of many.”
Injuries/suspensions: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Stephen Ireland (hamstring), Peter Crouch (hamstring) | Liverpool — OUT: Daniel Sturridge (hamstring), Martin Skrtel (hamstring), Danny Ings (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Jon Flanagan (knee); QUESTIONABLE: James Milner (calf), Divock Origi (hamstring)
Path to semifinals: Stoke — Luton Town 1-1 (7-8 PKs) Stoke; Fulham 0-1 Stoke; Stoke 1-1 (5-4 PKs) Chelsea; Stoke 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday | Liverpool — Liverpool 1-1 (3-2 PKs) Carlisle United); Liverpool 1-0 Bournemouth; Southampton 1-6 Liverpool;
League meeting this season: Stoke 0-1 Liverpool (Aug. 9)
League Cups won: Stoke (1) — 1971-72 | Liverpool (8) — 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1994–95, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2011–12