Any doubts about the goalscoring prowess of Liverpool without Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were assuaged somewhat by Sunday’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Brentford. It was somehow fitting that two of the goals were scored by those drafted in to fill the void left behind by the African pair – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, starting in Salah’s right wing berth, and Takumi Minamino doing the damage for the Reds against an obstinate Brentford side.
Liverpool asserted their dominance from the word go, but found it tough to break down a well-drilled Bees outfit, and while the visitors posed almost no threat in the first half it took a full 43 minutes for the Reds to break the deadlock.
The source was an unusual one, although Fabinho showed an eye for goal with a brace against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup. And the Brazilian was at it again on Sunday, standing in the right place at the right time to nod home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s in-swinging corner.
Brentford came into the game a little more after the break, and Bryan Mbeumo perhaps should have equalised when he fashioned a bit of space in the penalty area but fired wide.
Chances like that tend to be few and far between at Anfield for away sides, and Liverpool made Brentford pay thereafter. Diogo Jota hit the post with one sizzling shot, before the Portuguese ace was denied once again by a brave save from Bees keeper Alvaro Fernandez.
In the end, the second goal did come and it was as simple as you like. Andy Robertson whipped in a routine cross that landed on the head of Oxlade-Chamberlain, and he made no mistake from six yards out.
Any fears of a Brentford charge for an equaliser failed to materialise, and Firmino capped an excellent display by robbing the ball as the Bees haplessly tried to build from the back before setting up Minamino, who had the easy task of tapping home the third.
Up to second in the Premier League table, Liverpool take a break from the competition on Thursday evening when they travel to the capital to take on Arsenal in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi final.
Liverpool Team News
The win over Brentford was not without its downsides, as Oxlade-Chamberlain – who put in an eye-catching display – rolled his ankle and hobbled off after 74 minutes.
The reality is that he might not be risked against his former club, and Jurgen Klopp must decide who will come in on the right flank – Minamino or Kaide Gordon. We’ve a sneaky feeling he might opt for the latter.
Again, Klopp confounded us by playing Joel Matip for the second time in 72 hours, but the big centre back may well be replaced by Ibrahima Konate here.
Otherwise, the manager signalled his intent in the first leg of this tie by naming his strongest available eleven, and we’re expecting something similar on Thursday.
Not a great deal has changed for Arsenal since we previewed the first leg of this contest!
Their North London derby with Tottenham on Sunday was postponed on account of their absentees, however there is no indication that the Gunners will be able to cancel Thursday’s crunch clash.
Mikel Arteta will have to make do without Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe (AFCON), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sead Kolasinac (injury) and Granit Xhaka (suspended), while a handful of others are ‘touch and go’ to be fit in time for the game: Tomiyasu, Smith-Rowe, Saka, Cedric, Odegaard and Chambers.
If Liverpool are to ever get to a domestic cup final under Klopp, this might be their best chance yet….
Arsenal vs Liverpool Betting Tips
It’s difficult to make accurate predictions for this one until we know the starting elevens of the respective teams.
What we do know is that, regardless of the combination of players on the pitch, this second leg is unlikely to finish 0-0 in the same way as the first.
Any goal will open the game right up, and despite missing key figures both managers will ask their players to give it their all in rewarding their fans with a Wembley final.
You suspect too that neither manager will want to face 30 minutes of extra time – there’s no away goals rule in the EFL Cup, come what may – and so that will lend itself to a more open game.
Liverpool are the bookmakers’ favourites at 11/10, and that’s fair enough given the selection woes the Gunners face, but more edifying is Over 2.5 Goals at 4/5 – the 0-0 scoreline suits nobody. You can add Both Teams to Score into a double at 11/10.