Controversy shrouded the postponement of the EFL Cup semifinal first leg between Arsenal and Liverpool last week, with the battle at the Emirates pushed back thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Liverpool squad.
After it was later revealed that the Reds dealt with a number of false positives, the first leg is now set for Thursday at Anfield as the Reds and Gunners will finally take the field. Aside from those departing for the Africa Cup of Nations, both managers have relatively fit squads for the matchup.
A spot at Wembley is on the line over the course of 180 minutes, as both sides look to take an advantage back with them to London for next week’s finale. Chelsea is already confirmed as the first finalist, so the victor from this two-legged matchup will move on to face the Blues.
Arsenal and Liverpool are dead even throughout their history in this competition, with both sides holding six wins plus four draws on the books, so bragging rights also are on the line. Liverpool dominated the last meeting between the two sides, a 4-0 Premier League romp in late November.
**Sporting News will be following the event live and providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal live score
(All times Eastern)
1:08 p.m. ET: The calm before the storm.
12:45 p.m. ET: Before this matchup, have a look back at the bonkers meeting between Liverpool and Leicester City in the EFL Cup quarterfinals that saw the Reds reach this stage of the competition.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal lineups
Liverpool lineup notes
Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only Liverpool player still in COVID-19 isolation, meaning the Reds are nearly back to a virus-free squad. Young Conor Bradley could be the one to step in, having already earned a start in the FA Cup win over Shrewsbury Town. Goalkeeper Alisson is included in the group of returnees, having missed time earlier with a positive COVID-19 test.
Still, the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita are all on AFCON 2021 duty, and the injured group of Harvey Elliott, Divock Origi, Thiago, and Nat Phillips join them on the unavailable players list. So the Reds aren’t exactly healthy despite the COVID-19 cases fading away.
That means young players like Curtis Jones and Kaide Gordon could not only come into the side, but they could see the field.
Liverpool projected starting lineup (4-3-3): Alisson (GK) – Bradley, Matip, Van Dijk, Tsimikas – Henderson, Fabinho, Jones – Gordon, Jota, Minamino.
Liverpool subs: (Starting lineups released one hour prior to kickoff)
Arsenal lineup notes
Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are both on AFCON 2022 duty, meaning the Arenal midfield is extremely thin. That could lead to time for Charlie Patino and Albert Lokonga in the middle of the pitch. The Gunners also appeared to be dealing with COVID-19 issues, but Granit Xhaka has proven himself fit, a major boost. Takehiro Tomiyasu is reportedly still out with a calf injury, meaning Cedric Soares will step in at right back again.
Also, late news updates have pegged both Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe as out, with Smith Rowe unable to recover from the groin injury that kept him out of the FA Cup match last weekend, and Odegaard a new addition to the list with an undisclosed injury. That leaves Arsenal without a No. 10, but the aforementioned Xhaka could see himself deputize in that role with the youngsters behind him.
Another question for Mikel Arteta is who to start up front as the striker. Eddie Nketiah has been a go-to option in Cup games of recent past, but he was poor in the FA Cup loss to Nottingham Forest and that could lead Alexandre Lacazette to return.
Arsenal projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale (GK) – Tierney, White, Gabriel, Cedric – Lokonga, Patino – Saka, Xhaka, Martinelli – Lacazette.
Arsenal subs: (Starting lineups released one hour prior to kickoff)
How to watch Liverpool vs. Arsenal
Thursday’s first-leg match between Liverpool and Arsenal from Anfield in the EFL Cup semifinals will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States.
Pre-match betting lines, picks & predictions
Pick: Liverpool win & over 1.5 goals (+130)
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal
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