Liverpool and Arsenal will lock horns at Anfield in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg on Thursday, hoping to inch closer to reaching the final.
The 2021/22 Carabao Cup is reaching its climactic end, with the final set to be played next month. On Wednesday, the game between Tottenham and Chelsea will confirm the first of the two finalists. And the second semi-final between Liverpool and Arsenal will kick off on Thursday, with the second leg set to be played at Anfield.
Liverpool cruised through their opening two Carabao Cup fixtures, beating Norwich City and Preston North End before being made to work hard by Leicester City in the quarter-finals. The Reds’ recent form has been shaky as they have only won two of their last six games in regulation time.
On the other hand, Arsenal’s Carabao Cup campaign has been a memorable one thus far, with the Gunners easing past West Bromwich Albion, AFC Wimbledon, Leeds United and Sunderland to reach the semi-finals. However, the north Londoners come into this game on the back of an ouster from the FA Cup at the hands of Nottingham Forest.
Liverpool and Arsenal have locked horns once this season, with the Reds clinching a 4-0 win in a Premier League clash in November. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 12, 2022
Jurgen Klopp has been handed a double boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Arsenal. On Thursday, the Liverpool manager will be without seven first-team players, but two of the most pivotal members of his squad are back in contention.
Alisson Becker and Trent Alexander-Arnold have rejoined training after recovering from COVID-19 and will likely return to the starting eleven. Alisson and Alexander-Arnold’s return leaves Harvey Elliott (ankle), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Nathaniel Phillips (head) and Divock Origi (knee) on the sidelines with fitness issues, while Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita are at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Andrew Robertson has shrugged off the heavy knock he picked up against Shrewsbury Town last weekend but is likely to be rested here. Kostas Tsimikas is expected to start in place of Robertson, with Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk forming the central defensive partnership for Liverpool.
Up ahead in midfield, Jordan Henderson will be in contention to start, with Fabinho and cup regular Tyler Morton starting alongside him. Morton will once again reprise a more advanced midfield role, with Fabinho sitting at the base of the midfield. Henderson’s first-time passes will also hold the key in midfield for Liverpool.
Kaide Gordon was impressive against Shrewsbury and could get another chance to make his mark on Thursday. The teenage prodigy will likely have Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota as his attacking partners, with Takumi Minamino, Liverpool’s most consistent cup performer, missing out again.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Tsimikas; Henderson, Fabinho, Morton; Gordon, Firmino, Jota
Like his counterpart in the Liverpool dugout, Mikel Arteta has greeted some positive news ahead of the trip to Anfield. The Arsenal manager will only be missing the Africa Cup of Nations participants on Thursday, although three players are minor doubts.
Former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey are in Cameroon representing their respective nations. Granit Xhaka (COVID-19), Emile Smith Rowe (groin), and Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) are all facing a race against time to make themselves available to take on Liverpool. Still, they should be at Arteta’s disposal on Thursday.
Arteta on Xhaka's availability: "Hopefully today [we will know], not tomorrow, hopefully today. As soon as we have the option to train Granit fully with the team, we will see where he is at. I don't know where he will be physically. I know where he is going to be mentally" pic.twitter.com/EnyCL1jcEP
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) January 12, 2022
The major positive news is that Gabriel Magalhaes has served his suspension and will pair up with Ben White at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Aaron Ramsdale should return between the sticks in place of Bernd Leno, with Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney being the two full-backs.
Up ahead in midfield, a lot will hinge on Xhaka’s availability. Albert Sambi Lokonga and Charlie Patino will likely form the double-pivot in the middle of the park if the Swiss midfielder is not fit enough to start.
Alexandre Lacazette will spearhead the Arsenal attack, with Martin Odegaard playing off the Frenchman in the no. 10 berth. Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka are certainties out wide, and the duo will need to step up their games to trouble the Liverpool defence on Thursday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Lokonga, Patino; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette
- Thursday’s game is the 13th different League Cup tie between Arsenal and Liverpool, with each side winning/progressing six times each in the previous 12. It is the most played fixture in the history of the competition. The last five League Cup meetings between Arsenal and Liverpool have produced a total of 28 goals, despite the fourth round tie last season finishing 0-0.
- Liverpool have lost just one of their eight home games against Arsenal in the League Cup (W4 D3), going down 6-3 in January 2007 with Julio Baptista scoring four times for the Gunners.
- Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have scored more goals against Arsenal in all competitions (43) than they have versus any other opponent.
- Arsenal have progressed from three of their past four League Cup semi-final ties. However, no side has been eliminated at this stage of the competition more often than the Gunners (7, level with Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United).
- Arsenal are the highest scorers in this season’s EFL Cup with 16 goals, while no player has scored more in this season’s competition than Gunners striker Eddie Nketiah (5). Indeed, Nketiah has scored ten goals in nine appearances in the competition overall, scoring once on average every 66 minutes.
Player to Watch
Jota has been one of the revelations of the season for Liverpool. While the Portuguese international had enjoyed a strong debut season at Anfield, he has stepped his game up a notch this term, proving that he can potentially fill the void of Roberto Firmino if and when the Brazilian is on the sidelines.
One of the top scorers across competitions among Premier League players, Jota also has a remarkable record against Arsenal. The 25-year-old has scored five goals in his last seven appearances against Arsenal in all competitions, with four of those strikes coming in his four games against them for Liverpool. Another big performance could bring Liverpool closer to clinching a finals berth.
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
Thursday’s game will have very little margin of error. With two of Liverpool’s most important players at the Africa Cup of Nations, the output in the final third will be dented. However, with Arsenal being quite hollow in midfield due to their own deep-running issues, a high-scoring affair could ensue.
The Gunners tend to be strong performers in cup competitions, their FA Cup third round ouster at the hands of Nottingham Forest notwithstanding. With that in mind, Arsenal should take the game to Liverpool, despite being blown away by Liverpool in their Premier League clash two months ago. The Hard Tackle predicts an evenly-contested affair that could end in a 2-2 draw, setting up an enticing second leg next week.