Carling Cup quarter-finals preview
There are some big teams remaining and some exciting looking fixtures ahead this week in the Carling Cup last eight, but as usual for English football’s least fashionable competition the desire in the respective manager’s team selections could well be the governing factor in the fortunes that follow.
Arsenal vs Manchester City (Emirates Stadium) - The Sky live game is a mouth watering looking contest and the first meeting of the season for two clubs more newsworthy in recent months for their transfer dealings.
The Gunners fans will be itching to put one over on the team responsible for robbing them of some of their leading lights, yet their manager is likely to stick with his Carling Cup youth policy, no matter what the opposition, and will probably rest stars such as Van Persie, Walcott and Ramsey with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park Ju-Young (pictured) and Coquelin in contention for starting spots.
City, as has been well documented come into this clash just 48 hours after a bruising encounter at Anfield, expect wholesale changes for the Blues, yet they’ll still be able to field a side that boasts the likes of De Jong, Dzeko and Johnson, all a little short of first team action of late.
As they both played on Sunday it has to be unlikely that the fans will get their long awaited chance to vent their disapproval at messrs Nasri and Clichy, they may just have to wait for the league encounter in April for that.
Despite Wenger’s apathy Arsenal have an impressive Carling Cup record and are looking to reach the Semi-Finals for the sixth time in nine seasons, City haven’t won at the Gunners since 1975, a run stretching back 28 matches.
Chelsea vs Liverpool (Stamford Bridge) – Ahead of this match Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was bizarrely advising his team’s fans NOT to purchase tickets, citing the same reasons as the less vociferous Roberto Mancini has for more expected radical personnel changes just two days after the City encounter at Anfield.
The supporters haven’t listened incidentally and have sold out their allocation but just what team sheet awaits them is anyone’s guess.
Carroll, Carragher and Maxi Rodriguez all missed or played very minor roles at the weekend so the Reds should still be a strong outfit as they look to continue a proud record of never having lost to Chelsea under Dalglish, a 12 game sequence.
As for Chelsea, their powerful line up and exhausting 120 minute victory over Everton in the last round declared their serious intentions for this competition, they will also be looking for instant revenge after last weeks league defeat to the Reds.
John Terry is suspended but Fernando Torres looks a likely starter, another reason for the Liverpool fans to get excited.
Cardiff City vs Blackburn Rovers (Cardiff City Stadium) – Among all of the ties this one will naturally be held in the most sombre atmosphere following the untimely death of Gary Speed.
The stadium hosted his final game in charge of Wales and many will want to pay their respects to a popular national manager.
Rovers will be hoping for a win to ease the pressure on themselves and manager Steve Kean, plus will be hoping to progress to a lucrative Semi-Final meeting against one of the big guns.
Cardiff will have similar ambitions and are on form too thanks to an eight match unbeaten run that has lifted them up to third in the Championship.
No big squad rotations are predicted for either side, the Bluebirds are likely to be without captain Mark Hudson, Blackburn still have defensive injury woes but can welcome back David Dunn following suspension. This one looks too close to call.
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace (Old Trafford) – Sir Alex Ferguson is promising big changes to his line up for the visit of Dougie Freedman’s Palace youngsters. With usual Carling Cup starter Michael Owen injured Federico Macheda may get a rare chance to impress alongside Dimitar Berbatov. United’s youth will get a chance too, Pogba, Morrison and Fryers are all set to play a part.
Palace’s good start to their season has come off the rails lately and they head to Old Trafford with an unenviable goal drought going back 485 minutes, much will depend on their talisman Darren Ambrose.
Palace haven’t beaten United in five previous League Cup meetings, if the Reds prevail they will head towards their sixth last four appearance in ten years, maybe another titanic two legged tussle against the ‘noisy neighbours’ awaits.
By Phil Nicholas