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Carabao Cup: Loftus-Cheek, Martinelli and the players with a point to prove this week

The Carabao Cup third round takes place this week and it provides an opportunity for managers to assess some of the lesser-used members of their squad as the fixtures continue to pile up.

Particularly for the major clubs, this tournament is synonymous with rotation and there are likely to be many changes made across Tuesday and Wednesday night’s games. 

Some players have been unable to command a regular place in the starting lineup due to competition for places but they will now look to give their manager a selection headache. 

The third round of the Carabao Cup will give managers the opportunity to rotate their squads

Saul Niguez, for example, struggled on his debut for Chelsea against Aston Villa in the Premier League, but he could be given another opportunity when the same opponents visit Stamford Bridge in the Carabao Cup.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal also have players who have been used sparingly in the opening weeks of the campaign. 

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at those who will be hoping to use the Carabao Cup as a stepping stone to bigger things.

Saul Niguez – Chelsea

The 26-year-old possesses plenty of experience having made 340 appearances for Atletico Madrid but, as already alluded to, his first taste of English football didn’t exactly go to plan.

Chelsea may have prevailed with a 3-0 victory against Villa, but Saul was substituted at half time and hasn’t featured in his side’s two games since.

It seems likely that Thomas Tuchel will make a host of changes against Villa in the Carabao Cup, with Saul one of the players set to be involved. 

Although there will still be some intensity to the fixture, it may not be quite as challenging for Saul as the Premier League game between the teams, with Villa also poised to make alterations.

Saul frequently impressed for Atletico and will now look to show that he has learned from his Chelsea debut.

Getting into Chelsea’s starting lineup in the Premier League won’t be easy, but this game represents an excellent opportunity for Saul to showcase his credentials. 

After a difficult debut against Aston Villa, Saul Niguez is set to face the same opponents again

After a difficult debut against Aston Villa, Saul Niguez is set to face the same opponents again

Gabriel Martinelli will have the opportunity to get on the scoresheet against AFC Wimbledon

Gabriel Martinelli will have the opportunity to get on the scoresheet against AFC Wimbledon

Gabriel Martinelli – Arsenal

Martinelli has a vast amount of potential but an injury halted his progress and he has had a frustrating start to the season.

The 20-year-old started Arsenal’s first two Premier League games of the season, against Brentford and Chelsea, but struggled to make much of an impact, and has been an unused substitute for the last three games.

Arsenal host AFC Wimbledon at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night and Martinelli is likely to come back in to the team. 

The Brazilian forward, who is effective both up front or on the left flank, has an impressive record of four goals in four games for Arsenal in the Carabao Cup.

Martinelli still has time on his side to improve his situation at Arsenal, and, playing against a League One side, he will be determined to open his account for the season.

At his best Martinelli’s pace and flair can be a nightmare for defenders to deal with.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Liverpool

Liverpool face Norwich away on Tuesday, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain among the players that Jurgen Klopp could call upon.

Oxlade-Chamberlain started against the Canaries on the opening weekend of the Premier League season but has made just one league appearance since then, playing eight minutes as a substitute against Leeds.

With Klopp having several options in midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain has found it difficult to get a look in.

The game against Norwich, then, is an important occasion for Oxlade-Chamberlain as he looks to prove to Klopp that he can make an impact this season.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has won the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup, but success in the League Cup has eluded him so far.

This campaign he could be a key figure for Liverpool in the competition as they look to make it to Wembley.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be determined to prove that he deserves more opportunities

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be determined to prove that he deserves more opportunities

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Chelsea

Loftus-Cheek was linked with a move away from Chelsea during the summer transfer window but a deal failed to materialise.

After spending last season on loan at Fulham, Loftus-Cheek was eager to play regularly again this campaign, but it seems very unlikely that he will be able to fulfil that objective at Chelsea.

So far this season Loftus-Cheek hasn’t played at all in the Premier League, while he was brought on in the dying moments of Chelsea’s Champions League win against Zenit St. Petersburg.

Chelsea host Aston Villa on Wednesday in the third round of the Carabao Cup, which could prove to be a difficult game.

It remains to be seen how Tuchel will approach the competition, but if several changes are made then Loftus-Cheek is one of the players who will be waiting to step in. 

Even if he doesn’t have a long-term future at Chelsea, this game could be a good chance for Loftus-Cheek to impress other clubs ahead of a loan or permanent move. 

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on the fringes at Chelsea but may be involved against Aston Villa

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on the fringes at Chelsea but may be involved against Aston Villa

Ross Barkley – Chelsea

Barkley finds himself in a somewhat similar situation to Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea as he ended up staying despite having limited prospects in terms of playing time.

The 27-year-old has been an unused substitute in the Premier League and Champions League but may receive his first minutes of the season against Villa.

Barkley spent last season on loan at Villa, scoring three goals in 24 appearances, so it will be a fixture of some significance for him.

Like Loftus-Cheek, Barkley is a candidate to leave Chelsea either in January or next summer so he will be looking to show what he is capable of. 

A player with fine passing and technique, he will also be looking to prove to Tuchel that he can be relied upon should Chelsea suffer an injury crisis. 

Chelsea have many players on the fringes of the squad, so the Carabao Cup gives Tuchel an opportunity to give them some playing time. 

Ross Barkley is another Chelsea player who could get some minutes in the Carabao Cup

Ross Barkley is another Chelsea player who could get some minutes in the Carabao Cup 

Anthony Martial – Manchester United

The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo has given Manchester United a major boost but it hasn’t done much for Anthony Martial’s chances of starting regularly.

With Ronaldo now United’s first-choice option up front, Martial has hardly featured of late, playing six minutes against Newcastle and coming on for a brief runout against Young Boys before being an unused substitute against West Ham.

Although he is also able to play out wide, Martial could be forgiven for being somewhat concerned about how often he will feature this season.

After beating West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday, Manchester United face the same opponents in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, this time at Old Trafford.

It seems very likely that Martial will be involved in that fixture, with the Frenchman having a chance to open his account for the season. 

It will be tough for Martial to start regularly this season, but a good performance against West Ham would certainly give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer something to think about. 

Anthony Martial will look to score as Manchester United take on West Ham on Wednesday

Anthony Martial will look to score as Manchester United take on West Ham on Wednesday

Curtis Jones – Liverpool

Jones has been seen as a player of considerable potential for some time, but the Liverpool prospect hasn’t quite pushed on as quickly as some had hoped. 

Last season the Reds academy product featured prominently at times but he still isn’t an established starter, as evidenced by the fact that he has played only 14 minutes in the Premier League this season.

The game against Norwich, then, will give Jones the opportunity to demonstrate that he should be involved more often.

A player with excellent close control, Jones could have more chance of playing regularly for Liverpool following the injury to Harvey Elliott, who suffered a dislocated ankle. 

On Tuesday, up against Premier League opposition in Norwich, Jones must demonstrate that he can be a useful asset for Klopp’s team both defensively and in a creative sense.

If he manages to catch the eye then further opportunities could soon come his way. 

Curtis Jones has a chance to prove himself when Liverpool face Norwich on Tuesday night

Curtis Jones has a chance to prove himself when Liverpool face Norwich on Tuesday night

Matt Doherty – Tottenham

Signed from Wolves in August 2020, Doherty’s Tottenham career hasn’t gone to plan so far.

Despite the departure of Serge Aurier, the arrival of Emerson Royal from Barcelona means Doherty is set to be Tottenham’s back-up right-back this season.

A return to Molineux to take on his former club Wolves in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday could give Doherty the chance to get some much-needed playing time.

The Republic of Ireland international will be determined to put in an impressive display against his former club.

Doherty is well known to Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo, having produced some excellent performances under him at Wolves, albeit mainly as a wing-back.

Now Doherty will be aiming to provide a reminder to Nuno that he is a player who can perform with consistency if given the opportunity.

Matt Doherty isn't a regular starter for Tottenham but may play against his former club Wolves

Matt Doherty isn’t a regular starter for Tottenham but may play against his former club Wolves

Alexandre Lacazette – Arsenal

Despite being one of the more experienced players at the club, Lacazette has had to be content with a supporting role of late.

The 30-year-old missed Arsenal’s first two league games of the season after testing positive for Covid-19, before coming on as a substitute in the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Since then Lacazette has been an unused substitute against Norwich and Burnley, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line.

If Aubameyang continues to play more centrally this season it will be a major problem for Lacazette, who is into the final year of his contract with the Gunners.

However, the Carabao Cup game against AFC Wimbledon seems like an excellent opportunity for Lacazette to get on the scoresheet again after he also found the net in the previous round against West Bromwich Albion.

With the north London derby against Tottenham on the horizon, Lacazette will want to show Mikel Arteta that he is worthy of more playing time.

Alexandre Lacazette will look to show that he should be back in Arsenal's starting lineup

Alexandre Lacazette will look to show that he should be back in Arsenal’s starting lineup

Ben Chilwell – Chelsea

In May, Chilwell started for Chelsea in their Champions League final win against Manchester City.

However, in a rather unexpected turn of events, the left-back has been on the periphery of proceedings for Chelsea so far this season.

Chilwell hasn’t played for the Blues in the Premier League this campaign but, given his talent, it seems unlikely that he will remain out of the team for too long.

The road towards getting back into the side is likely to start for Chilwell against Aston Villa and a dependable display in that fixture would represent a step in the right direction.

Marcos Alonso has really impressed for Thomas Tuchel’s team of late but Chilwell, 24, is still expected to be Chelsea’s main left-back in the long term.

If he is able to re-establish himself at club level then Chilwell will subsequently hope to get back into the England squad. 

Ben Chilwell has endured a difficult time but the left-back could be in action against Villa

Ben Chilwell has endured a difficult time but the left-back could be in action against Villa

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