Quarterfinal round of the Carling Cup, 2:45pm Setanta.
Carling Cup results:
Liverpool: 1-0 Birmingham (a); 4-3 Reading (h)
Arsenal: 1-0 Everton (a); 2-0 West Brom (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-0 Charlton (a); 4-0 Fulham (h); 2-3 Galatasaray (a)
Arsenal: 2-2 Portsmouth (h); 1-0 Wigan (a); 1-1 Chelsea (a)
Goalscorers (league cup):
Liverpool: Agger, Crouch, Fowler, Paletta, Riise 1
Arsenal: Aliadere 2; Adebayor 1
Squad list, according to the BBC:
Liverpool (from): Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Riise, Aurelio, Luis Garcia, Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Gonzalez, Crouch, Fowler, Bellamy, Kuyt, Dudek, Paletta, Peltier.
Arsenal (from): Almunia, Poom, Hoyte, Lauren, Senderos, Djourou, Flamini, Walcott, Song, Denilson, Randall, Traore, Aliadiere, Connolly, Garry, Perez.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a lineup:
Finnan Carragher Agger Riise
Pennant Gerrard Alonso Garcia
So much for using the League Cup for kids and reserves. Now the fun starts. The BBC preview may claim that there will be a fair amount of changes from the weekend, but I’d be surprised to see the lineup that different from the one that went out at Charlton.
Much like against Manchester United in the 5th round of the FA Cup last year, Liverpool will be looking for cup revenge after a tough league loss. Unlike against United last year, Arsenal absolutely stuffed Liverpool in October. But home matches are far different than away matches, and cup games are far different than the league.
I firmly believe Garcia was rested over the weekend with an eye on this game. Not only is Little Luis known as a big game player, he’s had some fun times against the Arse. There’s a chance Garcia’ll pop up on the right, with Gonzo again on the left, but Pennant’s played well recently, and I’d be surprised to see him omitted. The fact that this game is against his old team does worry me though. Pennant’s tried too hard at times, becoming easily frustrated and easily put-off. I fear he’ll push to flatter versus Arsenal, but it’s not enough of a worry to keep him out of the team.
Again, picking a front line is a guessing game. Kuyt and Bellamy look to be the preferred pairing, and every game they’ve worked increasingly well together, but Crouch’s omission continues to confuse me. He’s still one of the players of last season with one of the team’s best strike records over the past year. Long story short, Bellamy and Crouch should start, but the only thing that seems clear is that with Bellers is on a run, it’d be silly if he sat. But then again, the Carling Cup has been Fowler's tournament so far this year.
On the flip side, Arsenal looks certain to make changes. Wenger appears to be treating this like any old Carling Cup game, and the squad is full of youngsters and reserves. No matter. I’d still prefer Liverpool play to their strengths and take advantage of this opportunity. Continue to cement a first XI, continue to gel as a unit, and continue to play better footie. Granted, it is still the League Cup, and with a big run of fixtures coming up through the holidays, there’s a temptation to rest players any opportunity you can get. But every game is a chance to improve and increase confidence, and a win over Arsenal, even a chopped and changed Arsenal, would do wonders for morale. This is no time for complacency, with the team finally playing like we hoped earlier in the season, and there is much more to be gained by playing a strong team than there is to be lost.