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)
1:45 p.m.: Fancy a (less than scientific) score predictor? We got 3-3, which would produce a fabulous 90 minutes for the neutrals.
1:35 p.m.: Lineup are in, and it's even stronger than expected for Liverpool as Trent Alexander-Arnold returns unexpectely from his COVID-19 isolation. Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are both included in the lineup, suggesting a possible 4-4-2 from Jurgen Klopp, unless one of them is playing out wide.
Meanwhile, Arsenal will see one of Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, or Gabriel Martinelli deputize as #10 in the 4-2-3-1 with both Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe missing out. The Gunners' bench makes for ugly reading, this is a really thin squad at the moment.
Subs tonight: Leno, Holding, Mari, Chambers, Tavares, Patino, Salah-Eddine, Hutchinson, Biereth.— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) January 13, 2022
1:29 p.m.: Another reason to take the over tonight: Jurgen Klopp loves facing Arsenal. Full betting tip below.
43 - Under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have scored more goals against Arsenal in all competitions (43) than they have versus any other opponent. Anticipation. pic.twitter.com/Vg36lnQkV3— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 13, 2022
1:23 p.m.: They're handing out flags for home fans. The Kop should be rocking.
A semi-final under the lights at Anfield tonight. We’ll need help with flags, if people can come down to the Kop/Kemlyn corner under the scoreboard from 19:15.
We’ve also got smaller flags for kids or people who haven’t waved one before. As always, anyone on the Kop is welcome.
1:08 p.m.: The calm before the storm.
12:45 p.m.: 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
It was thought that Trent Alexander-Arnold was the only Liverpool player still in COVID-19 isolation, but he is included in the starting lineup after making a quick return from COVID-19 protocols, meaning the Reds are back to a virus-free squad. 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 have made the bench, and they could potentially see the field depending on game flow.
Interestingly, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are included in the starting lineup, suggesting Liverpool could be lining up in more of a 4-4-2, unless one of the two is being deployed out wide.
Liverpool projected starting lineup (4-4-2): Alisson (GK) – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Fabinho, Henderson, Milner, Minamino – Jota, Firmino.
Liverpool subs (9): Kelleher (GK), Konate, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Tsimikas, Gordon, Morton, Williams.
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 steps in at right back again.
Both Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe are 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 recent addition to the list after testing positive for COVID-19. That leaves Arsenal without a No. 10, with one of Gabriel Martinelli or Alexandre Lacazette moving centrally to take the place.
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. However, with the thin attacking options, Nkeitah starts regardless of recent performances.
Arsenal projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale (GK) – Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney – Lokonga, Xhaka – Saka, Lacazette, Martinelli – Nketiah.
Arsenal subs: Leno (GK), Holding, Mari, Chambers, Tavares, Patino, Salah-Eddine, Hutchinson, Biereth.
How to watch Liverpool vs. Arsenal
- Date: Thursday, Jan. 13
- Time: 2:45 p.m. ET
- Streaming: ESPN+ (subscribers only)
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
- Moneyline: Liverpool +100 / Draw +275 / Arsenal +260
- Spread (Asian Handicap): Liverpool -0.5 (+100) / Arsenal +0.5 (-115)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over -140 / Under +120
- Both teams to score: Yes -165 / No +125