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Carabao Cup: Semi-Final First Leg Preview

Jorginho and Marcos Alonso

The Carabao Cup semi-finals are upon us, and London’s Premier League teams are running the show. The defending champions are nowhere in sight and a new champion will be crowned for the first time in four seasons.

Antonio Conte returns to his old stomping ground when his side travel to Stamford Bridge to face his former club, Chelsea. Meanwhile on Thursday, Mikel Arteta and Jurgen Klopp square up for the second time this season as Arsenal entertain Liverpool.

Who will gain the upper hand in the first leg of the English League Cup semi-finals?

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Wednesday 5 January

Chelsea 1/1
Draw 49/20
Tottenham 26/10
(21:45)

Last season it was Frank Lampard versus Jose Mourinho in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, now the new managers in hot form will shake hands ahead of this semi-final tie between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The Blues have their missing piece back and it has been evident that Romelu Lukaku was absent. A little lost in their ways of recent, but now with a big target up front to look for, Tuchel will have direction at Stamford Bridge. While Tottenham normally take second fiddle to the so-called ‘big teams’, Antonio Conte has brought about purpose and desire hardly ever seen in Spurs’ performances. There will be no shortage of first-team players on the starting XI team sheets as the business end of the tournament kicks off.

The Blues’ run in the League Cup started out on shaky terms with the first real showing that Chelsea’s depth isn’t quite what everyone expected. The fringe players were unable to get the job done convincingly with 1-1 draws against Aston Villa and Southampton, winning both on penalties, but the win over Brentford with a much more depleted squad was quite the opposite.

Conte’s first game back at the Bridge and what better way to return to the old stomping grounds than in a cup competition. Spurs haven’t lived up to their ‘Spursy ways’ but rather look clinical, aggressive, and as good as they did under Mauricio Pochettino (verdict is still out to be fair). Last season they came within touching distance of the EFL Cup but firing the Special One before the final was to their dismay. Under Nuno Espirito Santo, Tottenham almost let it slip against Wolves, drawing 2-2 and taking it on penalties, followed by another lackadaisical performance against Burnley, edging it 1-0. The last win over West Ham was under the oversight of the new boss, and that performance was telling, beating the Hammers to the nail, two goals to one.

Both teams will come into this fixture with the exact same formation, so it will be a true test of the managers. Either side wants to win the ball high up in opposition territory and both teams have similar strikers up front. Tuchel has had more time to implement his tactics into the formation whereas Conte’s boys definitely have the momentum and dangerous aura.

While Conte may have Spurs on their bicycle, Tuchel is working with better quality in players and the engine room is working its way back to full capacity with Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount fit. Chelsea will have a fight on their hands, but a victory in 90 minutes in their favour is favourable at home for me.

Thursday 6 January

Arsenal 17/10
Draw 47/20
Liverpool 31/20
(21:45)

With only domestic competition at hand, Arsenal have had the opportunity to focus on all fronts quite comfortably whereas Jurgen Klopp is at his wits end playing fixtures so frequently (but winning non the less). While it’s likely Klopp starts his under-23’s at the Emirates, Arteta is also likely to keep his squad players getting some miles on their clocks. These managers are bound to get heated after last time’s meeting in the Premier League and my anticipation is honestly and truly through the roof.

I can’t say this enough, the Gunners’ form is something to behold after recent years, but the performances against bigger teams are something that still needs a better mindset or rather a big team mindset. Focusing on the Carabao Cup hasn’t been difficult, and Arsenal have also had one extra fixture considering last season’s league placing. Four wins, 16 goals for and one against is evident of the importance placed on the cup by Arteta.

Liverpool was knocked out by Arsenal last time the two faced in said cup, and considering his track record, his not bound to take it very seriously yet again. Less than a second-string team is always on the agenda for the English League Cup from the Red’s boss and up until their quarter-final tie with Leicester City, the team had gotten the job done. A convincing 3-0 win over Norwich and a 2-0 win over Preston North End was a job well done, but Liverpool needed some first-team players to get over the line against the Foxes. 3-1 down at Anfield at the end of the first 45’ Klopp made some wholesale changes that saw a totally different second half. Ibrahim Konate, Diogo Jota and James Milner followed by Naby Keita meant that Liverpool would be all over the opposition, but a late injury-time goal from Takumi Minamino saw the 90 minutes end 3-3 and Liverpool win via penalties.

The Red’s are bound to come at Arsenal from the get-go, with the usual runners, numbers in the box, and half crosses from either corner of the 18-yard box, and if that doesn’t work, they’ll just up the tempo. Arsenal have been confidently going about their business, but the question is will they crack under Liverpool’s pressure? The Gunner’s faithful will be in full voice at the Emirates, but should Liverpool put out a good starting XI, it will be over before it starts. Arteta will not go down without a fight this time, but more tactical than passion filled, so back both teams to score in this encounter.

DOUBLE @ 2/1
Chelsea Win 1/1
Arsenal vs Liverpool: BTTS (Yes) 11/20

Written by Joshua Gaillard