London: Arsenal would probably have preferred an easier League Cup opponent than Premier League leaders Liverpool as they bid to regroup following captain Granit Xhaka’s tantrum and a poor run of form.
However, that is the task that faces the Gunners on Wednesday heading to Anfield for their fourth-round clash.
Unai Emery’s players have won just twice in their last eight Premier League games as opposed to Jurgen Klopp’s Champions League holders, who have dropped just two points thus far this term.
Theirs is one of three all Premier League matches on Wednesday with Chelsea hosting Manchester United and Aston Villa at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Liverpool’s last domestic honour dates back to lifting this trophy in 2012 but despite a desire to end that run Klopp is likely to field a very different line-up to the one that beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in the Premier League at the weekend.
Mohammad Salah is one of the Liverpool stars who will be rested but Arsenal’s Emery may be tempted to select Xhaka to refocus his mind after his histrionics on Sunday storming down the tunnel after being substituted during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Arsenal veteran Hector Bellerin — who is ruled out of the match due to injury — has called for everyone to calm down and pull together.
“It’s time to lift each other up, not to push each other away. We only win when we are together,” he tweeted.
Unlike Xhaka, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic enjoyed a memorable weekend in the best senses of the term scoring a hat-trick — his first goals for the club and a small initial repayment on the £58 million they paid Borussia Dortmund for him.
It was only his second start for the club since his arrival in August and the 21-year-old United States star should get another run out on Wednesday against Manchester United.
And that is certainly something he would relish.
“[Frank Lampard the Chelsea manager] believes in me and he’s told me that,” said Pulisic.
“You have to keep working hard in training and earn my spot, that’s how it is at the highest level.
“I’m going to continue to do so. This is, hopefully, just the start.”
Lampard, who succeeded Maurizio Sarri as manager after just one season with Derby County in the second tier Championship, is delighted with the form of the team but warned his players not to get all comfortable.
“I’m just really pleased where we’ve got to,” Lampard told the club website.
“We’re working hard, but we have to be aware we can improve and if we get overconfident in this moment and start making crazy expectations on ourselves from within — let everyone else talk.”
Manchester United have for them hit a rich vein of form beginning with the 1-1 draw with Liverpool the weekend before last — the only club to take points from the leaders this term.
Two rare away wins have followed with Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Norwich their first in the Premier League in eight months.
Chelsea represents a far tougher challenge away from home but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says they go to Stamford Bridge armed with two priceless qualities.
“It gives the players confidence and momentum,” he told the BBC.
Liverpool v Arsenal, 11.30pm
Aston Villa v Wolves, 11.45pm
Chelsea v Manchester United, 12.05am