By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Jamie Carragher has claimed that Liverpool’s League Cup semi-final against Stoke is more important than their Premier League showdown against Manchester United on Sunday.
The Anfield legend is convinced that the opportunity to win what would be only the club’s second trophy in nine years is more important than beating their bitter rivals.
Liverpool host Stoke at Anfield on 26 January in the second leg of the semi-final with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg at the Britannia Stadium.
Carragher believes overcoming Mark Hughes’ team and reaching the final, where they will play either Everton or Manchester City, is more important than beating United on Sunday.
“Is this the biggest game of the season? For Louis van Gaal and Manchester United, absolutely — another defeat and he could be out of his job,” wrote Carragher in the Daily Mail. “But for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool? No.
“A frenzy will engulf Anfield on Sunday. It’s always the way when United come to town and Klopp — given how animated he gets on the touchline — will certainly pump up Liverpool’s fans, some of whom will think that beating their most bitter rivals will spark an assault on the top four.
“I don’t think Liverpool are good enough to make the Champions League this year and a loss to United could potentially mean they come out of the weekend eight points behind fourth place with five or six clubs ahead of them. They would virtually have no chance of qualifying from that position.
“Yes, Liverpool showed great desire to come back against Arsenal on Wednesday but, as good as that was, you can’t forget the way they performed in the 2-0 defeat at West Ham a fortnight ago. There is a reason they are in ninth place.”
The last trophy Liverpool won was in 2012 when Kenny Dalglish steered them to the League Cup which, in turn, had been their first trophy since securing the FA Cup in 2006 under Rafael Benitez.
Carragher added: “I’m not worried where they finish this season, whether it is fifth or eighth. What I am bothered about are trophies and that’s why Stoke City on January 26 is much bigger for Klopp and Liverpool than a visit from Manchester United.
“It is 100 days since Klopp was appointed and before he reaches 150, there is an outstanding chance he could become just their second manager in the last nine years to win a piece of silverware and that would be huge; two of the last three appointments, remember, left without achieving that. This a chance to get a monkey off his back.”