3pm Eastern Time, not on TV in the US
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Stoke (h); 2-1 Marseille (a); 2-1 United (h)
Crewe: 3-4 Southend (h); 2-0 Colchester (h); 2-5 Leeds (a)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Guess at a squad:
Degen Agger Hyypia Insua
El Zhar Plessis Lucas Benayoun
I’d be very surprised to see many first-team regulars. This really shouldn’t be like last year, when Torres started and scored a hat-trick in the first Carling Cup match against Reading. Plus, Liverpool has a Merseyside derby in the early game on Saturday.
That said, this is still a complete guess at a squad. Benayoun, Keane, and Lucas may not start, seeing as how all have had time with the first team so far this season. However, I’m not really sure who would step in from the reserves. Seems too soon for Pacheco or Nemeth up top, even though fans were hardly sated by the few glimpses of them in the preseason.
Riera could see time to further adapt to English football, but he'll probably be left out for Saturday. I also doubt Babel will start again, especially if Liverpool field a reserve side, but he's an alternative. And Spearing may start ahead of Lucas, but the Brazilian needs match practice returning late from the internationals and having only played against Villa and Marseille.
I do expect Agger and Hyypia to finally spell Carra and Skrtel (if Agger doesn’t play, something is definitely wrong), and imagine we’ll see Degen get a start now that he’s fit enough for the bench, although Darby has to be in contention as well. And hopefully – although I’ll admit it’s pretty much just hope – we’ll see Insua too; with Aurelio injured again, he and Dossena are the only two choices at LB.
Liverpool has a very good B-side, and Benitez has done well staffing the reserves and Academy with prospects from all over the world. I expect a reasonable cup run because of the talent in this team, and the fact that they’re up against a League One side in the first round should help (in contrast to, say, playing Reading). But as we saw against Luton, Havant and Barnsley in the FA Cup, those sides also play without pressure unfancied and with nothing to lose.
The season certainly doesn’t hinge on this tournament, but any win boosts the morale, and having the reserves take a step up and play their part could only bode well for the future.