Wounded Gunners to continue their ascendancy
Arsenal and Liverpool will duke it out for a place in the EFL Cup final, with the first leg taking place at the Emirates on Thursday night. The Gunners outclassed Manchester City without getting the result their performance warranted in the end, and they will use this as a catalyst to test their credentials against a fellow member of the 'big six'. The visitors have lost and drawn their last two Premier League games, and must do without several key players because of AFCON. Read our preview here:
At the time of writing, the game is still set to go ahead despite Covid concerns. Mikel Arteta has his own contingent away in Cameroon to keep tabs on, though it's almost certain that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's days in red and white can be measured in the teens. Takehiro Tomiyasu should feature once more after recovering from his own bout of the virus to be in the lineup at the weekend, and Nuno Tavares will be pushing hard for a start on the opposite side of the defence. Eddie Nketiah will be the lone striker, looking to add to his extremely impressive tally of five goals from three games in the competition. Complementing him will be Bukayo Saka, who has continued to grow into the season after a summer spent as the subject of racist abuse for having the temerity to miss a penalty. That speaks very favourably of his character to bounce back and be an increasing influence on proceedings, and the wide forward is in a rich vein of form, having plundered four from his last trio of games.
Jordan's the perfect model
The front triumvirate will have a very different look and 'feel' to them on Thursday night. Shorn of Mo Salah and Sadio Mané (both AFCON), Roberto Firmino (Covid positive), Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi (both injured), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be pushed forwards into the false nine role with Diogo Jota to his left and the normally more defensive wide youngster Neco Williams on his right. Captain Jordan Henderson will still feature out of necessity, and his undeniable class on the ball and encouraging demeanour off it should ensure the Reds aren't on the ropes too frequently. 23 year old goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher excelled in the clash with City at the weekend, and with Alisson yet another player out, he will don the gloves once more, giving the defence in front of him the reassurance they are likely to need.
Control, alt, deplete
When you look through the very long list of names Jürgen Klopp won't have for Thursday, it's hard not to be sympathetic to his claims that the fixture shouldn't go ahead. Nevertheless, it does represent a fantastic opportunity for Arsenal's youngsters to assert themselves in the first leg, and betway have odds of 2.75 for the Gunners to score in both halves.