Arsenal v Liverpool: Klopp needs an attacking spark, while Arteta is desperate for an injury boost

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All eyes will be on north London on Thursday night as the Emirates plays host to Arsenal and Liverpool’s all-or-nothing Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.

Liverpool failed to take advantage of a 10-men Arsenal at Anfield last week as an uninspired, shot-shy performance left Jurgen Klopp’s side heading to the Emirates in desperate need of a goal. 

The German and his Gunners counterpart Mikel Arteta will both be desperately looking for solutions to break the deadlock.

Jurgen Klopp's (pictured) side are heading to the Emirates in desperate need of a goal after a stalemate in the first leg

Mikel Arteta (pictured) will be without a number of players for the crunch second leg tie

Jurgen Klopp (left) and Mikel Arteta (right) will be looking for solutions to break the deadlock as Arsenal face Liverpool in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Thursday night

But both managers have been left stretched for the the fixture as the Africa Cup of Nations and injuries mean there is not too much room to switch up their teams. 

Klopp is still without star duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane after Egypt and Senegal progressed to the last 16 in Cameroon, meaning the Liverpool boss has had to turn to alternatives to sustain their goal influx. 

Unfortunately for the Anfield faithful, none of those options stepped up last Thursday as Liverpool were held to a goalless stalemate. 

Takumi Minamino missed in front of a wide open goal to the dismay of the Kop but the Japan international rebounded with a goal against Brentford in the Reds’ 3-0 win at the weekend.   

The substitute’s goal could be the tonic he needs to redeem himself at the Emirates, following his howler last week.

Takumi Minamino (centre, No 18) fired a late chance into orbit in the first leg at Anfield

Takumi Minamino (centre, No 18) fired a late chance into orbit in the first leg at Anfield

But he bounced back from his nightmare miss against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup to score the Reds' third goal against Brentford

But he bounced back from his nightmare miss against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup to score the Reds’ third goal against Brentford

The 27-year-old has been crucial in crunch moments for the Reds this season, most notably netting the equaliser against Leicester to book their place in the Carabao Cup semi-final late in December. 

Minamino has made the Carabao Cup his own, with the winger picking up four goals in as many appearances in the cup competition. 

Klopp will be relying on Minamino to replicate that key form to send them through to Wembley, where Chelsea lie in wait for the winner. 

The Liverpool boss will have little option but to rely on Minamino after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who replaced the Japanese in the starting XI to face Brentford, was taken off injured and will miss the second leg. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (pictured) will not be available for the semi-final against Arsenal

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (pictured) will not be available for the semi-final against Arsenal

The second change Klopp made to his team that faced Brentford was Curtis Jones in for James Milner. 

A COVID-19 diagnosis and a ‘freak eye injury’ have halted the progress of late for Jones, but the Liverpool native had a huge impact at the weekend and could make the difference on Thursday. 

In a bright display the 20-year-old looked inventive when he moved out on to the left after initially starting in the centre.

Curtis Jones (right) looked bright and inventive against Brentford and could be key

Curtis Jones (right) looked bright and inventive against Brentford and could be key

One dribble and shot in the second half challenged goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez, who was forced to pull off a decent block. 

Jones’s creative spark could be pivotal in avoiding a repeat of the finishing problems Liverpool suffered against Arsenal last week.  

Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta faces a similar dilemma as his squad has been stripped bare. 

Granit Xhaka will be unavailable following his 24th-minute red card against Liverpool last week.

Granit Xhaka (right) is suspended following his red card in the first leg for a reckless challenge on Diogo Jota (left)

Granit Xhaka (right) is suspended following his red card in the first leg for a reckless challenge on Diogo Jota (left)

The Gunners boss will also be without Arsenal’s AFCON contingency: Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, despite the latter returning back to England earlier this week.

But Arsenal have welcomed back Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares from minor injuries, while Martin Odegaard has completed his Covid-19 isolation period. 

Arsenal were a defensive fortress after going a man down to deny a rather toothless Liverpool.

But Arteta will need his side to go out all guns blazing in attack if they hope to secure a home win and a final place. 

The biggest decision he faces is whether to bring Odegaard straight back into the fold. 

Martin Odegaard (left) will be available after completing his Covid-19 isolation period

Martin Odegaard (left) will be available after completing his Covid-19 isolation period

The Norwegian has four goals and as many assists this season, and could add another dimension to the Gunners’ attack. 

By replacing Eddie Nketiah, Odegaard could allow Alexandre Lacazette to move further forward. 

With Odegaard in just behind Lacazette, the Gunners could really test Liverpool’s defence – something which, with a one-man disadvantage, they were unable to do in the first leg. 

Equally, Arteta could start all three and move Albert Sambi Lokonga into central midfield. 

This would allow Odegaard to get forward and link up with the front two, leaving Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to provide the attack from the flanks. 

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