Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates at the end of the...

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Luton Town, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Peter Byrne

Jurgen Klopp’s long goodbye at Liverpool takes in a trip to Wembley Stadium this weekend for the first of three potential cup finals in his final season with the club.

Which players he’ll have available for the English League Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday appears to be anyone’s guess.

So severe is the injury crisis that has struck the Reds that Klopp says he is simply working “day by day.”

“There’s one phrase which stands — as long as we have 11 we will go for it,” Klopp said. “That’s all I can promise.”

Liverpool had close to a full lineup of first-teamers sidelined for the Premier League match against Luton, with Klopp needing to draft in a bunch of academy players on Wednesday. The fact that Liverpool still won 4-1 underlines the quality and depth in a squad that Klopp will soon be handing over. The bench, for example, had five players aged 19 or under, with one of them — Trey Nyoni — aged just 16.

An improving Chelsea looks sure to provide a tougher test than relegation-threatened Luton, so being without goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip, midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones, and attackers Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota is far from ideal.

Salah and Nunez might have the best chance of returning for the final but Klopp gave little away about their prospects of being fit.

Liverpool's Harvey Elliott smiles at the end of the English...

Liverpool's Harvey Elliott smiles at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Luton Town, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Jon Super

Indeed, the German coach is trying to look at the situation positively.

“I want us to ignore who is missing," Klopp said, adding: “If you don’t limit yourself with bad thoughts, you can fly.”

Liverpool overwhelmed Chelsea in a 4-1 drubbing at Anfield in the league just three weeks ago, but the Reds' injury situation means that game can no longer be a true barometer of what is to come on Sunday.

Chelsea, meanwhile, is on the up, with its expensively assembled squad seemingly starting to click. A battling draw at Manchester City on Saturday, which ended the champion's 11-match winning run in all competitions, came after back-to-back away wins at Aston Villa then Crystal Palace.

Liverpool's Conor Bradley applauds as he leaves the pitch after...

Liverpool's Conor Bradley applauds as he leaves the pitch after being substituted by Liverpool's Andrew Robertson during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Luton Town, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Jon Super

And Chelsea will hardly be short of motivation after losing both the FA Cup final and League Cup final to Liverpool in 2022, each time on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Those wins set up Liverpool's tilt at a quadruple of major trophies that season, only to be beaten to the Premier League title by a point by City and then lose the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

A slimmed-down quadruple — they are in the Europa League this season instead of the Champions League — is now the target for the Reds, who lead the league by four points and are in the last stages of the FA Cup and Europa League.

This could yet be a dream farewell for Klopp after nine years in charge, but he'll know it might be his final trip to Wembley as a manager.

It's a shame for him that he won't be taking a full-strength team to England's national stadium to mark the showpiece occasion.

TITLE RACE

With Liverpool inactive in the league this weekend, Manchester City and Arsenal will look to close the gap in the title race.

Second-placed City is away to Bournemouth on Saturday and has renewed concerns over the fitness of playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who didn't play a minute of the 1-0 win over Brentford on Tuesday because of what manager Pep Guardiola described as hamstring “niggles.”

Arsenal, which is a point further back in third, hosts Newcastle later Saturday and is coming off a 1-0 loss at Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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