With the Arsenal headlines understandably dominated by Granit Xhaka, Unai Emery, Mesut Özil, and the general state of affairs at the club, Wednesday’s Carabao Cup Round of 16 match at Liverpool has flown under the radar. Earlier this month there was a question as to whether the match would even be played — Liverpool were facing expulsion from the competition for fielding midfielder Pedro Chirivella in their 2-0 win over MK Dons. The EFL decided that because of “a number of mitigating factors” the Reds only need be fined £200,000 with half of it suspended.
The headline on the Arsenal side of things is that Mesut Özil will be “in the group” at Anfield, might start, and could wear the armband. As much as I want to read into Özil’s return to the squad, I think the explanation for his inclusion is simple: Arsenal are a bit short in the center of the midfield if you assume Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos need to rest. Presumably Lucas Torreira will partner Özil, and Willock will play as the third. Granit Xhaka, for obvious reasons, has not traveled with the side. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Calum Chambers, and David Luiz also stayed in London. I expect the rest of the lineup to look similar to what Unai Emery has selected for Europa League matches - a mix of youth and fringe players.
Liverpool appear to be taking a similar approach, mixing youth and experience in their lineup. 20-year old keeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who started against MK Dons, will once again in be goal for the Reds. Reportedly, some or all of Divock Origi, Adam Lallana, and former Arsenal man Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will start / feature as well.
The one-two punch of the drama at Arsenal and that the match is in the Carabao Cup is making it difficult for me to get worked up for the game. There are bigger fish to fry right now. That said, staying in the competition means more playing time for younger players to develop and keeping a shot at silverware alive is a good thing. I don’t usually make predictions, but for some reason, I’ve got a feeling this one ends 2-2 with Arsenal losing on penalties.
WHAT: Arsenal at Liverpool, Carabao Cup Round of 16
WHEN: Wednesday, October 30th 12:30 PM PT | 3:30 PM ET | 7:30 PM BT
US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on ESPN+ ($$$).
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