Liverpool take on Arsenal in the EFL Cup this week. The Reds hosted the Gunners in the same fixture last season and played out one of the competition’s most exciting games of recent years, the two sides contesting a 5-5 draw in normal time with the Reds winning on penalties. Liverpool staying in the EFL Cup is critical to keeping the backup brigade sharp.
Liverpool v Arsenal
This Thursday will see Liverpool host Arsenal for the second time in a week.
The Reds beat the Gunners comfortably at Anfield on Monday evening, cruising past them in a 3-1 win.
We will likely see two very different sides contest this Thursday’s encounter with neither manager wanting to tire out their stars ahead of tough weekend fixtures.
Liverpool backup stars
Jürgen Klopp will likely field a team of backup players on Thursday, handing out starts to the likes of Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Neco Williams.
These players will be on the bench for most Liverpool games this season, ready to be called into action when a player is tired, injured or simply having a bad game – though we don’t see many of those.
For this reason, Liverpool staying in the EFL Cup and giving these players regular game time as a result will be vital to the Reds’ success in other competitions.
For instance having Takumi Minamino start as many games as possible will keep him sharp in case he needs to step in one weekend with Roberto Firmino injured. Perhaps we may elect to start Sadio Mane on the bench at the weekend with a tough Champions League game to play in midweek, it would benefit us if Jota was in fine form ready for that game.
We saw the benefits of these regular first team games play out in fixtures against Everton last season.
The Reds fielded weakened sides against Everton in the league and in the FA Cup, winning both ties.
Divock Origi, having scored two vital goals when starting against Arsenal earlier in the season, netted a superb brace against the Ev in December.
Then in January we saw a predominantly youth side, many of whom were involved in the EFL Cup, edge past Everton at Anfield in the FA Cup, Curtis Jones netting the winner.
These ties with Everton go some way to showing how first team experience in the EFL Cup help us keep our reserve players sharp for other competitions when we need to rest our star players.