The League Cup holders begin the process of their defence this week, in welcoming Derby County to Anfield on Wednesday evening. With an inconsistent start to their Premier League season, the reds three ongoing (& imminent cup runs) could represent the best chance of silverware this year.
Derby County enter the contest on the back of two score draws, and looking to find their own rhythm. Their away draw to Morecombe (1-1) was quickly followed by their 2-2 draw away to Torquay United, in the first round of the FA Cup. They currently sit 7th in League 1, just outside the eventual play off spots. With 16 league games played, their 7 wins, 4 draws & 5 defeats show a reasonable start to their season, and a trip to Anfield may offer some much needed respite from the rigours of League 1.
On the availability front, the visitors appear to not have many injuries. With an away trip to MK Dons in the league on Saturday, followed by their FA cup replay at home to Torquay, this League Cup 3rd round tie will surely see some mild rotation involved. With top scorers James Collins a likely starter, it’ll probably see David McGoldrick partner him in attack.
In defence, Korey Smith will likely remain at fullback, with Hayden Roberts continuing at left back. The common centre back pairing of Eiran Cashin & Craig Forsyth would have almost certainly continued, however Cashin’s weekend dismissal means a start for Richard Stearman. It’ll be the midfield where Paul Warne is likely to shuffle the pack, with the experienced former Aston Villa man Conor Hourihane hoping to come back in. The 4-4-2 formation should see the promising Max Bird starting once more, with two from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Lewis Dobbin (on loan from Everton) or Louie Sibley completing the midfield. William Osula will be hoping to start in attack, but may be saved as an impact option from the bench.
For the Reds’ starting lineup, it’ll be all change for Jurgen Klopp. Their last two outings have seen strong starting lineups overcome both Napoli (2-0), followed by Spurs on Sunday afternoon (2-1). With Southampton waiting in the wings this Saturday (as their final game before the World Cup break), two wins would be desired, but their final Premier League outing will surely take precedence.
In goal, young Caoimhin Kelleher will almost certainly come in for Alisson Becker, with the Irish stopper excelling in the domestic cup runs last season. Right back should see a first start for new signing, Calvin Ramsey, with Kostas Tsimikas rotating back into the left back spot. With Joel Matip unlikely to be fit to start, it should see a centre back pairing of Joe Gomez & Nat Phillips deployed, with the weekend’s back four fully rested.
The midfield could see another youngster starting, with the impressive Stefan Bajetic drafted into the holding midfield role. Either side of him will be perhaps Alex Oxlade Chamberlain & the returning James Milner. If the Ox is preferred in a more attacking role, that could see Jordan Henderson as a midfield starter after injury.
Based upon availability, Curtis Jones & Fabio Carvalho will be thrust into a youthful forward line, and that could be where Oxlade Chamberlain takes on a right hand side role. With Curtis & Fabio offering equal versatility, it should make for an interesting forward line. Naby Keita would have been a starter for this game, if not for yet another disappointing injury.
The Reds will want to win this without having to call in the key players, but you can guarantee that the bench will be fully loaded and ready to go. Jurgen Klopp has to rotate for this game, and there are certain players that need to start, therefore it should make the reds somewhat unpredictable. With enough experience through the backline and midfield, it should still allow an exciting and fluid front like to express themselves.
This game will be a case of Liverpool controlling possession, whilst Derby try to be both quick and direct as the counter opportunities arise. These types of games always bring goals, and the sheer nature of the Cup tie should make for a good evenings football under the Anfield lights.
Player to watch – Curtis Jones
Liverpool 4 – 2 Derby County