What might normally be a relatively meaningless League Cup match for Chelsea could be especially important when the Blues take on Liverpool on Tuesday.
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With Chelsea 10 points off the lead in the Premier League and facing possible elimination from the Champions League, the team’s best chance of success could be the League Cup.
Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League but a rerun in the League Cup quarterfinals could go either way. Having played Manchester City on Sunday, Liverpool is likely to rest several players rather than make them play twice in three days.
Liverpool may recall Craig Bellamy after the Wales striker was omitted Sunday because he was so upset at the death of national team manager Gary Speed.
”Gary was like a mentor to Bellars,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. ”Bellars was a bit upset and I took the decision to say, ‘Look, there are more important things than playing a football match.”’
Defender Jamie Carragher may return for his first appearance since Oct. 26 after spending the last two matches on the bench since recovering from injury.
With defender Martin Kelly, striker Andy Carroll and midfielder duo Maxi Rodriguez and Jay Spearing also in contention for a recall, Dalglish could opt to rest the likes of Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez.
Johnson scored the winning goal against his former club on Nov. 20.
Chelsea has had an extra day’s rest since beating lowly Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 on Saturday. That was just the club’s second win from five Premier League matches and came after a 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen left the Blues needing either victory or a scoreless draw against Valencia to progress in the Champions League.
City is at Arsenal in another of the quarterfinal matches on Tuesday, when Blackburn is at Cardiff. Manchester United hosts Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Premier League leader City ended a 35-year streak without a trophy when it won last season’s FA Cup but has not won in three meetings with Arsenal, which lost last season’s final to Birmingham.
As many as three former Arsenal players could line up for City at Emirates Stadium, with Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy likely to make their first appearances against their former club and Kolo Toure also in contention to play.
”You want to respect our players who have played for us,” Wenger said. ”That’s what we expect. It’s always more important to support our players rather than be negative against the players of Man City. What is important is that we are united to win the game.”
United hosts Palace having not lost to its opponent since 1991. With such a strong record and a disparity in form – United is second in the Premier League while Palace is 10th in the second tier – United manager Alex Ferguson could give a debut to French midfielder Paul Pogba.
”There will be complete change,” Ferguson said. ”I think the League Cup has turned into quite a good tournament. Clubs like United are able to introduce young players and ones who have not been playing regularly in the first team and it’s been good to us over the years.
”We’ve won two finals at Wembley with young players, which is good going, and I think it’s become an important tournament for us in terms of getting the youngsters an introduction into winning.”
Ferguson said Ravel Morrison will be in the squad, while Mame Biram Diouf, Federico Macheda and reserve-team full back Zeki Fryers are also in contention. Pogba could play in central midfield.