Chelsea and Arsenal drew 1-1 at the Bridge in the first leg of the Carabao Cup Semifinal a fortnight ago, and will now do battle at the Emirates for a spot in the finals. Manchester City dispatched Bristol yesterday, so the winners of this game will still have a tough road ahead of them.
Here’s a quick preview of what to expect.
Carabao Cup Semifinal 24 Jan 2018
Alexis Sanchez, as you well know, has left the club for Old Trafford. Coming the other way is Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is cup-tied for this competition.
Arsenal will also be without possibly their best defender in Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard scored once and set up two at the weekend during the 4-1 dismantling of Crystal Palace.
Olivier Giroud continues his absence as Danny Welbeck joins him on the treatment table. Santi Cazorla is still a long-term absentee.
Meanwhile, there is a bit more mystery surrounding Antonio Conte’s men. Both Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas will be out, however, a few other players will face late fitness tests.
Courtois, Cahill, Christensen and Drinkwater are all considered doubtful for the Carabao Cup Semifinal, however, it is possible to see any or all of them at least make the bench.
The Gunners failed to score an away goal in the first leg, meaning a leaky defense may sink their hopes of silverware. As you know, away goals are used as a tie-breaker in the Carabao Cup.
The goalless draw was typical of this rivalry over the past two or so years. In that time, neither club has been able to really dominate the other.
So far all four matches this season have ended level; 0-0 in the first leg of the League Cup, 2-2 at the Emirates in the league, 0-0 at the Bridge in the league and 1-1 in the Community Shield. Arsenal also won two of three against Chelsea last season.
As bad as this year has been, this competition could turn into a small bright spot for the club. It would, of course, take a massive result against possibly the world’s best team right now, but our boys can sometimes do special things.
Possible Starting XI
The big question about the team today will be formation; does Wenger stick with a back four or go with a back three? Normally, it is easier to beat a back three with three at the back, so that’s what I will predict.
Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Chambers, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Lacazette
David Ospina normally gets the nod in cup competitions, however, with the team eliminated from the FA Cup, I think Cech would be the better option. Probably Wenger will go with the Colombian, but this is not his blog, so deal with it!
Koscielny and Mustafi are our best available defenders so they must play, while Chambers could be dropped for Rob Holding. Mertesacker is the only name fans would likely not wish to see in that defense.
Kolasinac is back from injury, however, Maitland-Niles has overtaken him in the pecking order, so he will go out on the wing. Bellerin remains our best option at RWB.
With Sanchez gone, Iwobi could fit into that front three, however, Wilshere has been in better form recently, and we know how Wenger feels about the Xhaka-Ramsey duo in CM. Meanwhile, as our two best remaining players, Ozil and Lacazette must start up front.
Brazen as Steve Bould, my prediction is for a slim Arsenal victory. Chelsea will have one eye on the weekend, and their FA Cup tie, while the Gunners have an open schedule, so no reason to rotate the squad.
Also, we are good in cups. It’s not an ideal situation as the team can’t really compete over the course of a league season, but beggars can’t be choosers.
So, I’ll go for 2-1 to the Arsenal in the Carabao Cup Semifinal.
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