Liverpool will look to secure their spot in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals when an in-crisis Arsenal visit Anfield on Wednesday night.
Both sides eased past their previous opponents in the competition with the managers of both clubs opting to field young sides. The Reds defeated MK Dons by two goals, with many exciting prospects from the academy playing from the first whistle, all of whom had impressive moments throughout the match.
Arsenal beat Sky Bet Championship side Nottingham Forest by five goals. Summer signing Gabriel Martinelli was their standout player while their other youngsters also impressed as the Gunners ran riot.
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Due to the amount of changes expected from both teams, recent form can’t be looked into that much as it will have little or no bearing on the outcome of the match.
Joe Gomez is likely to start for the first time since FC Salzburg, a match where Liverpool conceded a three-goal lead but eventually ran out 4-3 winners. The Englishman was poor on the night and seemed vulnerable against a quick and dynamic front line. Arsenal’s young attack has an abundance of pace so if he loses his nerve for a second time, he may well fall down the pecking order.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta will play a part after the duo impressed against KRC Genk in the Champions League. With two goals to his name, the Englishman was the stand-out midfielder in the game. That said, Keïta was just as good — the Guinean often looked for passes into the final third, a welcome change from Liverpool’s usually conservative midfield.
Controversy surrounds Arsenal after unsavoury events enveloped their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. The majority of the stadium jeered captain Granit Xhaka off the pitch, while the Swiss international responded by throwing the captain’s armband on the floor, making gestures towards the fans and taking off his shirt as he headed down the tunnel.
Ongoing events inside the club have looked to be crumbling for quite a while, with poor results on the pitch, along with players not performing to high standards. Arsenal may make seven or eight changes but the toxic mood inside the club could spread to the younger players, affecting their performance.
Liverpool announced on Monday that Joël Matip will be out for at least six weeks with an ankle injury. It is likely he will be unavailable for the remainder of the calendar year by the time he is match fit. There are 16 games between now and January 1 and, with only three fit centre-backs, Jürgen Klopp will need to carefully pick his central defensive partnership.
Caoimhín Kelleher will start in goal once again. Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren should both be rested ahead of the match against Aston Villa, while our full-backs should be replaced by James Milner and Adam Lewis, with Ki-Jana Hoever out due to his commitments at the u17 World Cup
Fabinho is at risk of suspension for the Man City game if he gets booked at Villa, I think he should play in this match and be rested for the weekend, as losing our influential Brazilian against the best side in the league would be hugely detrimental.
Adam Lallana could play alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The latter partnered with Keita in the Champions League and Liverpool were far too open at the back. A young Arsenal side will hurt us given the same space and time.
This feels like an ideal time to rest the front three, with the likes of Rhian Brewster and Divock Origi more than capable of stepping up for this one.
Arsenal will probably play a number of first-team players who are looking to regain fitness. Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerín and Alexandre Lacazette have all been returning from injuries in the last couple of weeks.
Lucas Torreira and Mesut Özil could return to the first XI after limited minutes over the past few games. The German has been exiled completely from league games. Joe Willock, who has impressed in the first team, could complete the midfield, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles an option if Emery decides against bringing Özil back into the fold.
Up front for the Gunners will be a trio of exciting young talent. Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson have also been playing in the first team, while Gabriel Martinelli has already proven he can score goals since his arrival in the summer.
The Carabao Cup provides fringe and young players an opportunity for game time, so I don’t think it is that important to Klopp. Liverpool already have a busy winter schedule and adding a possible four games could be risky, especially when the first team will play in the latter stages.
Man City often win the competition to get a winning mentality and boost morale for the final few months of the season, but Liverpool have the opportunity to win the Club World Cup and, with only two games to play in that competition, that trophy will probably be the priority.
Arsenal did look dangerous and with a strong lineup expected, they will look favourites. Liverpool look weak at the back with the players that are currently available, which could be our downfall. The game will be close and really could go either way.
Predicted final score: Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal