Mikel Arteta says Arsenal’s fans can play a big part in helping his side get to the EFL Cup final when they host Liverpool in Thursday’s semi-final second leg (Arsenal 5/2, draw 13/5, Liverpool EVS – Match result).
The tie is finely poised after the first leg at Anfield finished goalless last week and the two Premier League rivals will battle it out at the Emirates for the right to take on Chelsea in the League Cup final at Wembley on February 27.
Arteta hopes the Gunners fans can create a noisy atmosphere again after being impressed with the way they have backed his team in recent weeks.
“The [fans] are able to change the energy, the momentum of the game, give a massive lift to the players and give them confidence so if they can drive the team the way they have been doing recently, that would be incredibly helpful to give us the best possible chance to get in the final,” he said on the club’s website.
“It is one of the best atmospheres I’ve seen for many, many years at the Emirates and I’ve been in a few of those so I can just thank the fans for their support that they are giving the team.
“We have the opportunity to get into a final, which is close to a title, against a big opponent, in our stadium, with our people, so we are very excited to play the game.”
Arsenal are assessing several players who have recently been in isolation due to positive Covid tests but Arteta was coy over who is and isn’t available to take on the Reds as he admitted he didn’t want to “give anything away”.
Emile Smith Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Martin Odegaard will all hope to return, but Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe and Mohamed Elneny are all absent due to their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is unavailable despite returning to London early from international duty with Gabon and Granit Xhaka is suspended after being sent off in the first leg.
Liverpool are without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after he suffered an ankle injury in the weekend win over Brentford, while Thiago Alcantara and Divock Origi are injured and Naby Keita, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah remain on international duty.
First-choice keeper Alisson played in the first leg, taking over from Caoimhin Kelleher who had been used in goal in the previous rounds of the competition, and the Brazilian is expected to keep his place for the Emirates showdown.
Assistant boss Pepijn Lijnders says Liverpool are determined to make amends for a disappointing first-leg performance when they struggled to create chances at Anfield.
He said: “I couldn’t wait for this game since the final whistle at Anfield because everyone was writing us off. It was the disappointment of the stadium, the disappointment of the fans and the disappointment of us as a staff.
“We need optimism in our squad because this semi-final is decided over two legs. It is half-time, it is 0-0 and there are no away goals.”