Two titans of English football face off in a huge EFL Semi-Final on Thursday evening! Who will line up and what will happen in this epic first-leg encounter?
With both teams affected by AFCON-related absences, Arsenal and Liverpool do battle in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night.
The home side defeated Sunderland 5-1 in the quarter-finals to get to this stage, while the Reds required penalties to dispatch an unlucky Leicester City.
Arsenal haven’t lifted the EFL Cup since 1993, but the in-form Gunners will no doubt sense an opportunity to at least reach the final this year, especially with Liverpool missing so many players.
The spot-kick victory against the Foxes represents Liverpool’s only win from their last four matches in all tournaments. Now with superstar forwards, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, both away in Africa, Liverpool are perhaps considered unlikely underdogs, ahead of this clash in north London.
In Arsenal squad news, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé, Mohamed Elneny, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are all at AFCON. Meanwhile, Gabriel Martinelli is suspended, Sead Kolašinac is out injured, and Calum Chambers remains doubtful due to COVID-19.
Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will compete for places in the centre of the park and boss, Mikel Arteta, should trust Bernd Leno between the sticks.
For Liverpool, in addition to the AFCON absentees, Alisson Becker, Joël Matip, and Roberto Firmino returned positive COVID-19 tests recently and are all unavailable.
However, manager, Jürgen Klopp, should name his strongest possible XI here, before resting his remaining big guns for the FA Cup game with Shrewsbury Town on Sunday.
With Liverpool’s lengthy list of high-profile absentees, we think that Arsenal will head into the second leg with a decent advantage. Our prediction is 2-0 to the Gunners, with a goal scored in each half.
Arsenal possible starting XI:
Leno; Tomiyasu, White, Holding, Tavares; Xhaka, Lokonga; Saka, Ødegaard, Smith Rowe; Nketiah
Liverpool possible starting XI:
Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Jones, Fabinho, Henderson; Gordon, Jota, Oxlade-Chamberlain