Undermanned Arsenal host Klopp's Liverpool
The second leg of this Carabao Cup semi-final is finely poised between Arsenal and Liverpool. The hosts come into this game after holding out for a mightily impressive 0-0 draw at Anfield after going down to ten men early on. Jurgen Klopp's side will be frustrated at their inability to put the Gunners away in the first leg, a frustration that may cost them dearly.
Arsenal thin on the ground
Despite the excellent battling to defend a clean sheet in the first leg, Arsenal are still very much up against it going into Thursday's second leg. Even if they had a full squad, the sheer difference in overall quality between the squads means that it'll be another uphill battle for a diminished Arsenal squad. Having to deal with a multitude of injuries, suspensions and AFCON absentees means that it's tricky to hazard a guess at how Arteta's men will line up. Sunday's much anticipated North London derby was called off due to Arsenal not having enough first team players to fill the minimum 13 places in the matchday lineup.
With much uproar coming from this (despite minimal protests at the 19 Premier League ties called off prior to this one), Arsenal will still be without many of these players despite the week's rest between the first and second leg. Confirmed absentees include Nicolas Pepe, Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey due to AFCON. Elsewhere, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Cedric Soares and Calum Chambers are all minor doubts due to injury. Martin Odegaard will also miss out due to COVID. Arteta has come out and said that he wants to keep the teams news to himself, and it's somewhat understandable considering the sheer uncertainty over who could be involved which will keep Liverpool guessing.
The Gunners could well have to go with Ben White stepping into midfield, with the only recognised central midfielder who is fully fit is Albert Sambi Lokonga. Arsenal will also be hoping that their EFL Cup top scorer Eddie Nketiah will be afforded more time on pitch after being hauled off due to Xhaka's red cards in the first leg.
Liverpool bounce back in a big way
After a relatively inconsistent run for a Salah and Mane-less Liverpool, taking just two points from games against Spurs, Leicester and Chelsea, they came back and battered Brentford 3-0 on Sunday. That game helped Liverpool go back up into second in the Premier League over Chelsea. Goals from Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino helped them overcome a struggling Brentford outfit. The latter of those scorers will be very pleased to have made up for his shocking miss in the first leg against Arsenal with a goal over the weekend. Minamino will likely be in line to start once against the Gunners with both Salah and Mane at AFCON again.
Liverpool will be without Thiago Alcantara, Nat Phillips and Harvey Elliot due to longer term injuries. Both Sadio Mane and Naby Kieta are away on AFCON duties, but by comparison to their hosts, Liverpool still have a wealth of options across their squad. Divock Origi also remains doubtful due to an ongoing knee issue. With Liverpool's title hopes definitely slipping away in front of them, with Man City seemingly running away with the title so far. It'll be one of their main trophy aims for this season that's for sure. Their last league cup triumph came back in the 2011/12 season with a win against Cardiff City.
Klopp will be hoping that Jordan Henderson and James Milner will be able to put in a better showing in the midfield, although Fabinho may step into centre midfield for this one to try and control the game in the middle of the park against a undermanned Arsenal engine room.
This tie is poised perfectly after an edgy first leg that should give Arteta's side some more confidence going back to home turf. Either way this tie goes, I can't see there being a sudden flurry of goals at the Emirates, with both sides having similar personnel to the low scoring tie at Anfield.