Op-Ed: Soccer: League Cup quarter-finals preview
While many may argue that the League Cup (Carling Cup for sponsorship reasons) has lost its spark, next week's bundle of exciting fixtures may be enough to change that viewpoint.
Aside from Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace, which will be played on November 30, the ties will take place on November 29.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool:
Last weekend Glen Johnson
bagged an 87th-minute winner for Liverpool in the same fixture, contributing to Chelsea's third Premier League defeat in four games.
As Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has been under pressure as of late - especially after another late defeat in last night's UEFA Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen
- I think it's safe to say that the League Cup isn't his primary objective.
Liverpool, however, have nothing to lose. In comparison to recent seasons their form has been superb, and advancing to the semi-finals of this competition is the confidence boost they require.
My pick - Liverpool.
Cardiff City vs. Blackburn Rovers:
Speaking of primary objectives, Blackburn boss Steve Kean has had severe problems in the past few months. While Blackburn currently sit second bottom of the Premier League, the Scotsman's key concern is survival. Fans have also been protesting
for the 44-year-old to be given the boot, which can't be helping his state of mind. I can see him fielding a weak team for this one.
Meanwhile, Championship high-flyers Cardiff are unbeaten in their last seven (in all competitions), and as this is the first time the Bluebirds have reached the final eight of the League Cup since 1965
, they will be looking to cause an upset and generate more disorder towards Kean's regime.
My pick - Cardiff.
Arsenal vs. Manchester City:
I believe that this will be the most competitive match of the round. Arsenal haven't won a trophy in six years and came so close to ending that drought in last season's final against Birmingham City, only to lose 2-1 after a late defensive mishap between Wojciech Szczęsny and Laurent Koscielny.
On the other hand, despite their 2-1 loss to Napoli in Tuesday night's Champions League fixture, City have been in spectacular form and currently sit five points clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premiership. Roberto Mancini has enough depth to rotate the squad for this fixture and may even field Gael Clichy
and Samir Nasri
- both former Arsenal players who signed for City during the summer.
My pick - Manchester City.
Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace:
Although Alex Ferguson usually fields youngsters for the League Cup, expect to see Dimitar Berbatov start up front, especially if Wayne Rooney is deemed fit to face Newcastle United on Saturday. Michael Owen isn't an option after sustaining a thigh injury
against Otelul Galati just a few weeks ago, which means we may see either Federico Macheda or Danny Welbeck in action. Fergie's youngsters will have something to prove given United's recent performances in the league.
Their opponents, Crystal Palace, currently sit 10th in the Championship and were once a force to be reckoned with in the Premiership. Having lost their last two games, Palace will look to bounce back in stylish fashion, as they seek revenge for their 1-0 loss to United in the 1990 FA Cup
My pick - Manchester United.