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10 key things to know ahead of Liverpool vs. Arsenal

It’s finally time for the League Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal, with victory to set up the perfect foundations for the return trip to the capital.

It’s been a topsy-turvey couple of weeks for the Reds after positive Covid cases, false positives, three league games without a win followed by an FA Cup victory.

But they’re in the final four of the League Cup after fighting from behind against Leicester and now there is a place at Wembley to fight for against the Gunners.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of the game.

 

1. How did Arsenal get here?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 20, 2021: Arsenal's manager Mikel Arteta during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We know the Reds knocked Norwich, Preston and Leicester out to reach the semi-final but for the Gunners, it was West Brom, Wimbledon, Leeds and Sunderland after entering in the second round.

In that run, Mikel Arteta’s side scored 16 and conceded just one goal and that was against League One’s Sunderland in the last round.

While this is the first time Liverpool have appeared at this stage since 2016/17, Arsenal were last here in 2017/18 and would finish the competition as runners-up.

 

2. Who is available for the visitors?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 20, 2021: Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu (L) and Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Arsenal had to bid farewell to a handful of players due to the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning Nicolas Pepe, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are not available.

Their absences coupled with Covid cases and injuries left Arteta to assess the situation as “extremely volatile and uncertain” so he will “use the players that we have and make the most out of it.”

Gabriel is expected back after his suspension but Granit Xhaka is expected to miss out due to Covid while there are doubts over Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu due to injury.

Had the game gone ahead one week ago, Arsenal could still have been left to play without seven of the abovementioned players.

Possible Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Smith Rowe, Lokonga, Odegaard; Saka, Lacazette, Martinelli

 

3. Liverpool’s false positive situation

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, November 2, 2021: Signage at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 4 game between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The original first leg was postponed as Liverpool had to close their training ground amid what was reported to be a “severe outbreak.”

It left up to 18 players unavailable for the scheduled trip to the Emirates, contributing to the game being pushed back.

Klopp would reveal on his return that Trent Alexander-Arnold was the sole positive case amid a handful of false positives, causing a strong reaction from the Arsenal fanbase.

“It doesn’t change anything for your quarantine but you need to know, you have to do a third test. In between, you cannot use the players – that’s how the rules are for all of us,” Klopp explained.

 

4. Who is available for Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 16, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Let’s start with who is not available.

Liverpool will be without Divock Origi, Thiago, Nat Phillips and Harvey Elliott due to injury, but the latter is looking “really promising” on the pitch and could join team training soon.

AFCON also means that Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane are unavailable, but one can expect a strong side from the Reds nevertheless.

That is thanks to Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold having returned to training, and those who had false positives out of isolation and similarly back on the training pitch.

 

5. How could the Reds lineup?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 11, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There will be a few question marks as to how Klopp will approach this one, with the manager needing to weigh up if he will go full strength or reward those who got the Reds to this position.

But some of the debates will be Alisson or Coaimhin Kelleher? Curtis Jones back in midfield? Ibrahima Konate to keep his place ahead of Joel Matip and Joe Gomez?

There are quite a few options for the manager to play with, thankfully, and it could end up seeing Liverpool lineup like this.

Possible Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Jones; Jota, Minamino, Firmino

 

6. Who and when could the Reds face in the final?

League Cup trophy . (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is a case of if at this stage as a ball has yet to be kicked in this tie, but the winner looks set to meet Chelsea in the final.

Thomas Tuchel’s side took a 2-0 first leg lead vs. Tottenham and placed one foot at Wembley, the home of the final on February 27, 2022.

 

7. Four for Minamino?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 22, 2021: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino during the Football League Cup Quarter-Final match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 5-4 on penalties after a 3-3 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Takumi Minamino takes to the field, he could join Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Steve McMahon and Vladimir Smicer in scoring for Liverpool in four successive League Cup games.

Smicer did so in 2000/01 and the Reds went on to lift the trophy so Minamino adding to his goals against Norwich, Preston and Leicester could be just the omen for a celebration in February…

 

8. “Nothing to worry about”

After the release of another Mo Salah interview discussing his contract situation, Klopp was asked once more about the situation.

He had “very positive” words to say but nothing is done as of yet.

We know, I know, Mo wants to stay, we want Mo to stay. That’s the point where we are.

“These things take time, I cannot change that, sorry. But I think it’s all in a good place, nothing else to say.

“I’m very positive about it, but I don’t think it makes sense you speak on behalf of the fans because I’m pretty sure the fans are not as nervous as you are.

“They know the club pretty long and know the people here have been dealing with things for pretty long, so I think there are enough reasons to be positive.

“But as long as it’s not done, I cannot say anything about it. But [there are] good conversations. That’s all I can say.”

 

9. Oliver, Oliver!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, August 9, 2019: referee Michael Oliver sends his assistant off the field for a replacement battery delaying the start of the second half during the opening FA Premier League match of the season between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Michael Oliver is the man in the middle on Thursday night in what will be the third Liverpool game he has officiated so far this season.

And the Reds will want a repeat of the first match, which was the 4-0 win over Arsenal at Anfield back in November as opposed to the 1-0 defeat Leicester he oversaw at the end of December.

Thankfully, Liverpool have never lost against Arsenal in the games Oliver has overseen (four wins, two draws).

And as little referee/VAR drama (Darren England) as possible will be great, thanks!

 

10. A Sky Sports Listing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 28, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp tells off the Sky Sports steadycam operator after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s time to tune back into Sky Sports Main Event/Football for those of you in the UK, with coverage starting at 7pm (GMT) ahead of the 7.45pm kickoff.

But if that doesn’t tickle your fancy and you’d prefer some biased Liverpool commentary then our This Is Anfield live blog is just the ticket, with Henry Jackson to be at the helm from 7pm!

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