Liverpool work with neuroscientists to prepare for potential Carabao Cup final penalty shootout

Liverpool have been working with German neuroscientists this week as they prepare for the possibility of another penalty shootout in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final with Chelsea at Wembley.

Dr Niklas Hausler and Patrick Hantschke, co-founders of Potsdam-based Neuro11, attach electrodes to players’ heads to measure brain activity and help them get “in the zone” by reaching their optimal mental state.

They first started working with the club in the summer of 2021 and Jurgen Klopp credited them with having an important role to play in Liverpool’s domestic cup final successes over Chelsea two seasons ago.

Both the 2022 Carabao Cup and FA Cup finals went to penalties with Klopp’s side prevailing on each occasion. Across the two shootouts, they scored 17 of their 18 penalties with only Sadio Mane missing.

The Neuro11 team, who will be among the club’s guests at Wembley on Sunday, were also at Liverpool’s training complex ahead of last month’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg away to Fulham.

Much of their initial work with the club was centred around dead ball specialists like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah, but over time their remit was expanded with individualised plans for each member of the squad.


Meet the neuroscientists aiming to help Liverpool thrive at set pieces by attaching electrodes to Salah’s head

Speaking to The Athletic in 2021, Hausler said: “You can’t re-create a real high-pressure situation but you can give a player the right tools to be prepared for that.

“We provide these tools so when a penalty comes up you are able to deal with all the distractions around you and you know exactly what to do to score that goal.”

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Liverpool won the 2022 FA Cup final on penalties (Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Captain Virgil van Dijk believes a depleted Liverpool will be fully prepared for whatever faces them at Wembley on Sunday.

“We already did a little bit (of practising penalties) over the last couple of weeks with being in the cups,” he said.

“Doing it in a game at Wembley, a full stadium, is a totally different environment to training. You have to be fully focused on what you want to do and just go for it. We’re working together so every little percentage that we can work on we do.

“To stand in front of all those fans and keep your nerve is not easy. For example, in Qatar, we trained penalties almost every day and I scored every time and then obviously when the moment came, I missed (for Netherlands in the 2022 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina). That’s part of the game unfortunately. Hopefully we can decide the game in regular time.”

Liverpool were convincing 4-1 winners over Chelsea at Anfield last month but Van Dijk is wary of the threat posed by Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who drew with Manchester City last weekend.

“Going to Wembley will be an amazing experience again and it’s a big opportunity to get silverware but we know it’s going to be tough,” he added.

“Chelsea are a very good team and they have found a way to perform better than maybe they have done in the past.  With their quality, they could hurt us, but we have to make it very difficult for them.

“I try to lead the boys as good as possible, on and off the pitch, be their leader and so far, so good. Hopefully we can make it an amazing afternoon on Sunday.”



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(Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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