Arsenal v Liverpool, Carling Cup, October 28, 2009
The glamour tie of the fourth-round of the League Cup sees Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool head to London to face Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, although, as is typical in this competition, both sides are planning to make wholesale changes to their line-ups as the youngsters get a chance to shine.
The last time the clubs met in this competition, Arsenal claimed a famous victory at Anfield. Outfought, out-thought and, ultimately, outclassed, Liverpool exited the competition with their collective tails between their legs.
Back in 2006, Wenger’s policy of giving his babes a run-out was already in full flow. Between the sticks Manuel Almunia received a rare run-out ahead of Jens Lehmann, while the Arsenal midfield and attack was comprised of teenagers including Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Denilson – the spine of today’s current Arsenal team.
The star of the show that night though was Julio Baptista – the bulky and burly Brazilian forward who never quite settled in North London. This match was to be “The Beast’s” crowning glory in England, and the striker claimed an incredible four-goal haul in front of the disbelieving Kop. It remains Liverpool’s heaviest defeat since the 1929-30 season.
While many of Arsene’s babes have since gone on to become established members of the current first team, only Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Fabio Aurelio and Pepe Riena remain on Benitez’s books from that disastrous night. A classic example of the problematic Benitez revolving-door syndrome, critics may argue.
(Relive Arsenal’s 6-3 victory at Liverpool here.)
Predicting Benitez’s line-up is akin to pinning the tail on the donkey, but we can expect as many high-profile first-teamers as possible to be rested for the match. In particular, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will not feature.
Up-front Benitez may well give two also-rans a chance to shine as David Ngog (11/4 to score) and Andrei Voronin (15/2 to score first) could be picked to lead the line. The big talking point in the Reds midfield surrounds whether summer signing Alberto Aquilani (10/1 to score & Liverpool win) will finally get a first team run-out after his big money move from Roma, while Ryan Babel (11/4 to score) and Jay Spearing (7/1 to score) should also receive playing minutes in the middle of the park.
The Liverpool defence will also be substantially rejigged, with Diego Cavalieri donning the gloves while the impressive-looking Martin Kelly could get another opportunity at right-back. (Liverpool are 12/5 to keep a clean sheet.)
For Arsenal, Wenger’s tried and trusted method of blooding his next generation in the League Cup will continue. But the match also affords the Professor the setting to reintroduce players from injury, as midfielder Samir Nasri and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski could make their first appearances of the season following extensive periods on the sidelines.
Adding a certain degree of experience to his starting eleven, Wenger is likely to call on Philippe Senderos and veteran Mikael Silvestre likely to start in defence.
Mexican forward Carlos Vela (20/1 to score a brace), Sanchez Watt (7/1 to score first), who scored in the last round against West Brom, Fran Merida, Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey (11/2 to score), along with England Under-21 duo Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere could all also feature in the match.
101gg predicts: Arsenal 2 – Liverpool 1 (15/2)
Full match odds here.