Carling Cup Round 3: 10 Games to Watch

Devil in a New DressSenior Writer ISeptember 20, 2011

Carling Cup Round 3: 10 Games to Watch

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    The big Premier League teams finally begin their Carling Cup campaigns and there are some tasty fixtures to watch out for.

    Manchester United will rekindle their rivalry with Leeds United with a trip to Elland Road in the third round of the Carling Cup. Defending champions Birmingham City face a difficult start to the defense of their trophy with a visit to Manchester City.

    There are four all-Premier League ties, including a London derby at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and FulhamEverton will face West Brom, Aston Villa are at home to Bolton and Stoke will host Tottenham.

    Shrewsbury Town have a trip to Emirates Stadium to face last season's beaten finalists Arsenal to look forward to, while Liverpool face a difficult away tie at Brighton's new American Express Community Stadium. And a team from the bottom two divisions is guaranteed a place in the last 16, with League Two side Aldershot at home to Rochdale of League One.

    Here are 10 Carling Cup third-round matches to watch out for.

Chelsea vs. Fulham

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    Chelsea will begin their Carling Cup campaign with a home match against Fulham.

    The Blues will enter the match as favorites for the win, but Fulham will also fancy their chances in this fixture. Entering this match on the back of a gutsy 2-2 draw with Manchester City in the Premier League, Fulham will feel they can cause an upset.

    Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas faces another selection dilemma. Fernando Torres clearly needs a few games under his belt, and new signings Romelu Lukaku, French international Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge are also contending for a place.

Brighton vs. Liverpool

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    Liverpool will travel away to Brighton to make their Carling Cup bow.

    It is rumored that Steven Gerrard will be named in the travelling squad, and may make his first appearance in six months after being sidelined with a groin injury.

    Liverpool will be looking to put successive defeats to Tottenham and Stoke City behind them, and manager Kenny Dalglish will see this match as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.

Manchester City vs. Birmingham City

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    Defending champions Birmingham City face a tough challenge in the shape of Premier League contenders Manchester City.

    This weekend, Manchester City suffered their first league setback of the season in their away draw against Fulham. Birmingham City will know that Roberto Mancini's men will not be complacent in this game.

    Kolo Toure, who is poised to return after completing his six-month drug suspension, and Carlos Tevez will both be desperate to force their way into the first team. There are reports that new signing Owen Hargreaves will make his Manchester City debut in this game. 

Everton vs. West Brom

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    Everton have had a positive start to the season, unlike their opponents who are stuck at the bottom of the Premier League table.

    West Brom have lost four of their opening five league games, although Roy Hodgson's team comfortably overcame Bournemouth 4-1 in the second round of the competition.

    Everton, unbeaten since the opening day of the season, will be looking to continue their good form with league matches against Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United on the horizon.

    Save for Victor Anichebe, David Moyes has everyone available for the League Cup tie at Goodison Park. The Scot may choose to continue ignoring Louis Saha, as the pair have had a difficult relationship in recent times, and could give starts to new signings Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualarsi.

Arsenal vs. Shrewsbury

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    As Arsenal's worst start to a season since 1953 continues, it is questionable whether the club's manager, players and supporters could cope with a defeat to Shrewsbury.

    Japanese forward Ryo Miyaichi and fellow 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain look set to make their full debuts for Arsenal, whilst new signing Chu Young Park will also be involved as Arsene Wenger will look to mix youth with experience.

    Shrewsbury, from the bottom division of the Football League, will be playing in the third round of the League Cup for the first time since 1993.

    They beat Premier League newcomers Swansea to get to this stage, but a victory over Arsenal would far exceed that achievement.

Stoke vs. Tottenham

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    Stoke and Tottenham will come into this game in contrasting moods, having been at opposite ends of 4-0 scorelines at the weekend.

    Stoke City's heavy defeat by Sunderland was their first in 10 competitive games this season and, coming three days after a European fixture, will raise questions about how equipped they are to deal with a hectic programme of European and domestic action.

    Spurs were exhilarating to watch in drubbing Liverpool on Sunday—proof that they have put heavy defeats by the two Manchester clubs behind them.

    For both sides this will be a third game in six days after Europa League assignments last week, meaning Tony Pulis and Harry Redknapp are likely to rest many of their first-choice players.

    William Gallas and Sandro are in line to make their first starts of the season for Spurs after recovering from injuries. Heurelho Gomes looks set to play in goal as Harry Redknapp rotates his squad.

Nottingham Forest vs. Newcastle

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    Newcastle United have quietly exceeded expectations so far this season, and have put together an impressive unbeaten run that they will be confident of extending at the City Ground at the expense of McClaren.

    Newcastle have won four of their last five matches against Forest, scoring 11 goals and conceding only two. Nottingham Forest have beaten Newcastle just once in the league since 1988, but are unbeaten in their last four meetings in cup competitions.

    Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa will return to action after nearly a year out injured.

    Nottingham Forest boss Steve McClaren will be hoping for a change of fortunes, as the club has registered just one win from seven league games.

Leeds vs. Manchester United

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    Manchester United travel to Leeds with revenge at the forefront of their minds.

    Embarrassing defeats have been thin on the ground during Sir Alex Ferguson's near 25-year tenure as Manchester United boss, but the 1-0 home defeat by Leeds in the FA Cup third round 18 months ago left a sour taste for him and Red Devils' fans.

    This is the 107th meeting between the sides. Manchester United have won 54 times, Leeds 26 and there have been 35 draws. This will be the fourth time they have met in the League Cup; Manchester United have won every match.

    Manchester United are set to play a host of youngsters such as Paul Pogba and Will Keane.

    Experienced strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen are expected to feature, but Chris Smalling has been ruled out with a groin injury.

Blackburn vs. Leyton Orient

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    The Blackburn Rovers' thrilling victory against Arsenal on Saturday eased the pressure on manager Steve Kean, who has struggled to win over Rovers fans—some of whom staged a pre-match protest calling for his removal.

    The result against the Gunners went down very well with the Blackburn Rovers faithful, but a defeat at home to the third tier's bottom side certainly would not. So Kean will want to avoid any slip-up against Leyton Orient.

    Leyton Oreint, who have lost their last two matches 3-1, have never beaten a top-flight team in the League Cup.

Aston Villa vs. Bolton

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    Coming into this game, four of Aston Villa's opening five league games have finished all-square, but a return to knockout cup competition at least guarantees a decisive result.

    Alex McLeish will be desperate to preserve his unbeaten start as Villa's manager, and he'll be aware that the League Cup offers a realistic opportunity for a trophy and a route to Europe.

    McLeish may also privately acknowledge that cup progress is important to quieting the disquiet that remains among a section of the home support, many of whom will vividly remember McLeish's Birmingham gleefully eliminating Villa from the League Cup on their way to winning last season's competition.