Stevenage v Charlton Athletic
Home comforts have played a big part in Stevenage’s impressive 2022-23 season. Prior to their eventful 3-2 defeat at home to Northampton Town on the 22nd October, their most recent game at the Lamex Stadium, Steve Evans’ side possessed a 100% record in all competitions on home soil. That record included a scalp of League One high flyers Peterborough United in the previous round of the League Cup.
Aaron Chapman may be brought in between the sticks as part of cup rotation, but this midweek again brings up the question of which full-back combination Evans will deploy from the off. Max Clark and Saxon Earley are both top quality down the left, whilst Kane Smith and Luther Wildin are standouts on the right, with the back three of Dan Sweeney, Terence Vancooten and Carl Piergianni ever consistent between them. With Jamie Reid, Danny Rose, Luke Norris and David Amoo as available striker options, Steve Evans makes excellent use of the five-substitutes rule to bring on as many as possible for all-out attack at the end of matches.
Following their viral 4-4 draw at home to Ipswich Town at the end of October, Charlton Athletic followed up that point with cup victories over Brighton and Hove Albion U21 in the EFL Trophy and Coalville Town in the FA Cup. Showing preference for a simple 4-4-2, Ben Garner has been giving opportunities to young winger Tyreece Campbell, who operates down the left-hand-side with Crystal Palace loanee Jesurun Rak-Sakyi often playing inverted on the opposite flank. George Dobson is an underrated anchor in midfield, with Scott Fraser providing more creativity alongside him. Jayden Stockley is a physical frontman, with the more Charlie Kirk acting as his strike partner whilst Miles Leaburn is unavailable. Kirk is much better suited to a wider role however, and was able to play that in Charlton’s 3-4-3 line-up against Ipswich Town.
An opportunity for one guaranteed lower league place in Round Four, home advantage for Stevenage could work in their favour again here. Steve Evans’ side are very direct, but do so effectively as they pile the pressure onto their opponents the further a game progresses. Up against a Charlton Athletic team that have largely been without full availability in recent weeks, the opportunity for a place in the last 16 of the League Cup is there for the taking.
Liverpool v Derby County
The League Cup holders began their trophy defence on home soil. 2022-23 has been a particularly memorable one for Liverpool so far. UEFA Champions League progression was secured in second place behind Napoli, but below par league results see the Reds languishing in eighth even after a recent 2-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur. Domestic cup games last season presented an opportunity for Liverpool to demonstrate the strength of their squad and youth, and in general a nowhere near full-strength side was needed to overcome lower league opposition.
Some notable injuries to first team players could impact Jürgen Klopp’s matchday squad selections, where it feels likely that Irish goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher could be used for league cup action once again. Their penultimate match before the World Cup break, it’s highly unlikely that Liverpool’s starting eleven will share the strength of the one which began the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but it should carry sufficient quality nonetheless.
The Third Round draw presents Derby County with a first trip to Anfield since September 2007. The Rams and Reds have met since in the League Cup however, when Liverpool comfortably dispatched Derby 3-0 at Pride Park back in 2016. Following a 4-2 home win over Bristol Rovers at the end of October, the two subsequent away trips for Paul Warne’s side have brought immense frustration come the final whistle. A 1-1 draw at Morecambe saw the Rams miss two penalties before finally earning an equaliser, and Sunday saw Derby finish the game with 10-men as they blew a two-goal lead away at National League bottom club Torquay United. That 2-2 draw has left Derby County with a replay at Pride Park, another fixture to add into what already looks a condensed schedule. That proves particularly unideal for Warne who would ideally like to send as strong a side as possible to give a good account of themselves away at Liverpool.
With Eiran Cashin now suspended, Richard Stearman could come back into the defence from the start, forming a very experienced centre-back partnership with Craig Forsyth. Winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing could prove crucial with his speed and direct running, as could Everton loanee Lewis Dobbin and Sheffield United loanee William Osula.
Derby County fans will travel in their thousands to Anfield for this Third Round League Cup tie, but it could prove a tough evening for them. Paul Warne finds himself limited on squad numbers and with an extra fixture to now fit into his packed schedule. Whilst he will likely not have to cope with facing the household names of Liverpool’s squad, from the start at least, the Reds will still no doubt line-up with a side full of quality as they look to comfortably secure passage and target another trip to Wembley next year. The favourites could run riot here if given the chance.
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