Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's EFL Cup
quarter-final at the Emirates Stadium!
A cup quarter-final is always a special occasion in itself, but for this to be a North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur makes this one even more mouth-watering. It is the second time they have faced off already this month, and if tonight's game is anything like the first then we are in for a cracker. I can't wait!
Let's start with a look at the team news...
ARSENAL STARTING XI: Cech; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Xhaka, Monreal; Torreira, Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi; Aubameyang
ARSENAL SUBS: Martinez, Koscielny, Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Willock, Lacazette, Nketiah
TOTTENHAM STARTING XI: Gazzaniga; Trippier, Alderweireld, Davies, Rose; Winks, Sissoko; Eriksen, Dele, Lucas; Son
TOTTENHAM SUBS: Vorm, Foyth, Walker-Peters, Skipp, Lamela, Llorente, Kane
A couple of interesting team selections there, so let's start with the home side, who appear to have ditched the three-man defence as expected but are still forced to play Granit Xhaka at centre-back tonight.
This time the Swiss midfielder is in a centre-back two alongside Sokratis, who returns from suspension, as Koscielny drops to the bench and Mustafi once again misses out due to a hamstring injury.
There are some changes, as expected, but it is still a fairly strong side named by Arsenal tonight, including Premier League top-scorer Pierre Emerick Aubameyang leading the line.
The Gabon striker scored twice in the derby earlier this month and will look to get on the scoresheet again having got off to a flying first year or so with the Gunners so far. Another goal today and he will quickly become some of a derby-day hero for Arsenal fans already.
In all, Unai Emery
has made four changes to the team which was beaten by Southampton at the weekend, with Petr Cech
, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis and Aaron Ramsey coming into the side - the latter of whom for a rare start despite his obvious quality.
Leno, Lichtsteiner, Koscielny and the injured Hector Bellerin are the quartet to miss out from that defeat, while there are a fill six changes from the last round of this competition against Blackpool.
Lucas Torreira further endeared himself to the Arsenal fans with his performance in the derby earlier this month - capped with a goal - and with Xhaka in defence today he will start alongside Guendouzi in midfield.
The youngster has also had a good impact since joining the club this summer and he has two assists already in this competition - more than any other player at clubs still in the EFL Cup this term.
As for Tottenham, derby-day specialist Harry Kane has not played in a League Cup match since the last time Spurs faced Arsenal in this competitions, in September 2015, and he is once again omitted from the starting lineup tonight.
Kane is on the bench in case of emergencies, but it will be Son Heung-min who leads the line for the visitors here, having been left out of the starting lineup against Burnley at the weekend.
Christian Eriksen was another absentee from that starting lineup against the Clarets, but he came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner and his inclusion tonight is a sign that Pochettino is taking this game seriously.
The Argentine has had to be cautious with his chief playmaker in recent months due to an ongoing stomach issue, but he is deemed fit enough to start tonight, which is a huge boost for Spurs.
and Lucas Moure also start for Spurs in that trio behind the striker, but it is behind them where the main problems lie, with Tottenham suffering from a number of injury concerns at the moment.
Vertonghen, Dier, Dembele, Aurier and Wanyama are all sidelined through injury, while Davinson Sanchez has also failed to recover in time for this match, leaving Spurs with a makeshift backline once again.
Ben Davies is again starting at centre-back alongside Alderweireld, then, with Rose on the left and Trippier keeping his place on the right ahead of Walker-Peters.
Winks replaces Skipp in midfield in one of four changes for Tottenham, which also sees Gazzaniga continue as the cup goalkeeper. There is notably a place on the bench for Juan Foyth, who himself has only recently returned to first-team training following an injury, but Pochettino sticks with Davies in a central position.
Both sides are struggling with injuries defensively then, while both have also named attacking players who can open those depleted defences up - hopefully that will make for another entertaining contest!
Arsenal, of course, came out on top in the one between these two sides just 17 days ago, but they trail Spurs by five points in the Premier League table so it is Tottenham winning the war right now, even if Emery won his first taste of a North London battle.
Arsenal come into this match off the back of a defeat, though, having seen their long 22-match unbeaten streak come to an end on Sunday when they were defeated by struggling Southampton at St Mary's.
It was the Gunners' first loss since August 18 against Chelsea - and only their third under Emery - but many Arsenal fans would concede that the impressive length of that unbeaten run helped to paper over some cracks which still need addressing.
One such issue is that they have, incredibly, not been ahead at half time in any of their 17 Premier League matches so far this season, so it is remarkable that they even sit as high as fifth in the table.
Fifth would be an improvement from last season for sure, and Arsenal do seem to be heading in the right direction again now, but it is the top four spot which they will be after and they are now three points adrift of Chelsea following Sunday's results.
Defeat today would see them fall to back-to-back losses for the first time since Emery's opening two matches in charge, but at home they have been a very difficult to beat of late.
Indeed, the Gunners are without defeat in their last 13 outings on home turf, winning 10 of those since losing to Man City in what remains Emery's only home loss as Arsenal boss. Their good run stretches beyond just Emery, though, with that defeat also being their only one in their last 22 Emirates Stadium appearances, stretching back to March 1.
The Gunners have also won each of their last six EFL Cup home games, including both of them so far this season, although only two of those six games have come against Premier League opposition.
Spurs are the first top-flight team to block their path so far this term, having beaten Brentford 3-1 and Blackpool 2-1 to make it to this stage of the competition.
Another win today would see Arsenal reach the semi-finals of this competition in consecutive seasons for the first time since a run of three years in a row between 2005-06 and 2007-08.
They made it all the way to the final in Arsene Wenger's final season at the helm last term, but they were well beaten at Wembley as Manchester City ran out 3-0 winners.
It proved to be the Frenchman's final chance to get his hands on a trophy he surprisingly never won during his 22 years as Arsenal boss, despite his record-breaking success in the FA Cup over that same period.
The EFL Cup never seemed to have the same allure to him - understandably, perhaps - and it is a trophy Arsenal have only ever won twice before in their history - most recently in 1992-93.
Emery has the chance to do something Wenger never managed in his very first season at the helm, then, but his opposite number Mauricio Pochettino
is also going in search of his first trophy as Tottenham boss, and his wait has been a lot longer than Emery's so far.
There has been undoubted progress for Spurs under Pochettino - most notably securing three top-three finishes in a row, while their average points tally during his four full seasons at the helm has been more than 74, compared to 68 in the four seasons before he arrived. However, there remains a very noticeable monkey on his back.
There is no silverware for steering Spurs to their first top-three finish since 1990, and Pochettino still remains without a major trophy from his entire managerial career - not just at Tottenham.
However, that has not prevented the Argentine from establishing a reputation as one of the best managers in world football, and he has been heavily linked with the newly-vacant Manchester United post over the past day or so - not to mention the repeated speculation that he is top of Real Madrid's wish list too.
It should also be remembered that Spurs currently appear to have a better chance of winning silverware than for some time before Pochettino's arrival, with their last trophy coming in this competition in 2008, when Juande Ramos's side beat Chelsea in the final.
Indeed, Tottenham's last two trophies have been this one and, while they remain in contention on all four fronts this season, it appears to be their best chance again this time around.
Some big tests still await even if Spurs are able to get past Arsenal tonight, with Manchester City already in the last four and one of Chelsea or Bournemouth also joining them tonight in the other semi-final.
Unlike Arsenal, though, Spurs have come up against a couple of top-flight teams in this season's competition already, needing penalties to beat Watford in the third round before a 3-1 win over West Ham United at the London Stadium in the last round.
That victory over West Ham was the first of a good run of form for Tottenham which has seen them win nine and lost just one of their last 11 outings across all competitions - with the only other result during that time before their 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou which sealed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
However, you may be ahead of me in identifying the match they lost in that run - at this stadium against the same opponents earlier this very month.
Arsenal would laud it over Tottenham if they beat them twice in a month and ended their latest chance of a trophy in the process tonight, but Spurs fans can simply point at the Premier League table in an attempt to win back the bragging rights.
Pochettino's side sit third in the standings, five points clear of Arsenal and only six adrift of leaders Liverpool. Many have painted it as a two-horse race for the Premier League title this season, but Spurs will still consider themselves in the running.
Spurs also arrive at the Emirates having lost only one of their last 10 away games across all competitions, most recently picking up that draw at Barcelona last week.
However, once again that solitary defeat was inflicted here by Arsenal in that thrilling derby, while they have not won back-to-back EFL Cup away games since September 2009 - something they could achieve tonight following their win at West Ham in the previous round.
Right, we have 10 minutes until kickoff at the Emirates Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction!
Who knows?! These games are unpredictable at the best of times, yet alone with rotation and the added fire of a cup quarter-final involved too. Spurs have not had the best luck away to Arsenal down the years, but I have a sneaky feeling that they might be able to pull off a win tonight.
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Arsenal 1-2 Tottenham
The most recent meeting between these two sides was, of course, that 4-2 thriller just two-and-a-half weeks ago, when first Spurs and then Arsenal came from behind en route to victory here for the Gunners.
That means that Arsenal tonight have the chance to beat Spurs twice inside the same calendar month for the first time since doing so in March 1987.
There is a rich history of this fixture in this competition too, and tonight will see the North London derby become the joint-most played fixture in League Cup history - matching the 14 times we have seen Arsenal vs. Liverpool down the years.
Arsenal have generally dominated that particular history, winning seven of the previous 13 with Spurs only managing three wins in that time.
That includes Arsenal win in the most recent two EFl Cup meetings - in 2010-11 and 2015-16 - and the latter saw a very unlikely hero emerge at White Hart Lane for the Gunners.
Mathieu Flamini, of all players, netted a brace either side of a Calum Chambers own goal to give Arsenal a 2-1 win in September 2015.
Right, we're just about ready to get going at the Emirates Stadium for this one! Let's have a quick reminder of the team news...
ARSENAL STARTING XI: Cech; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Xhaka, Monreal; Torreira, Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi; Aubameyang
TOTTENHAM STARTING XI: Gazzaniga; Trippier, Alderweireld, Davies, Rose; Winks, Sissoko; Eriksen, Dele, Lucas; Son
KICKOFF: Here we go, then!
CHANCE! Chance for Arsenal after less than two minutes! Xhaka swings a corner in and Mkhitaryan is left in all sorts of room, glancing a header across the face of goal and narrowly past the far post.
Arsenal have made the brighter start to this match, with Spurs struggling to get settled in the opening exchanges.
Positive play from Trippier as he nips in front of his man before trying to launch a quick attack, but Eriksen only has Son in front of him and the impetus is quickly lost.
CHANCE! Arsenal suddenly burst into life as Iwobi and Ramsey exchange passes down the left. The latter runs on to another pass before getting his shot away early, but his effort flashes wide.
Spurs are seeing a little more of the ball now as they begin to grow into the game after a slowish start.
SHOT! Spurs work the ball forward nicely and it comes across to Eriksen on the left channel, but he is under pressure from a defender and slices his eventual shot well wide.
SHOT! Another half-chance for the visitors as this time Trippier floats a cross into the box for Alli, who cannot keep his header down.
CHANCE! Arsenal respond with a huge chance, and they really should be ahead! Mkhitaryan plays a lovely one-two with Ramsey to leave him clean through on goal, but he tries to give Gazzaniga the eyes and the Spurs keeper does not fall for it. Poor from Mkhitaryan, who really should have scored there.
It hasn't taken long for this one to get going again here after their meeting earlier this month. There have been a few sights of goals already, including a couple of really good ones for Arsenal.
SHOT! A spell of Tottenham pressure leads to Eriksen trying his luck from a long way out, but it is an ambitious effort and it flies well over the crossbar.
Spurs have very much grown into the game now - they enjoyed 65% of the possession in the opening 15 minutes!
Arsenal just cannot get out at the moment. They have created the best chances of the game so far, but they are being pinned back into their own half right now.
A corner is played short to Eriksen, who delivers a cross into the near post. Davies has a swing but misses the ball, and it ends up running all the way through to Cech.
GOAL! ARSENAL 0-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (SON HEUNG-MIN)
Spurs make the breakthrough, and it has been coming with the visitors enjoying so much of the ball!
A long boot forward from Gazzaniga hits Lucas and drops to Alli, who immediately plays the ball through for Son. The Korean only has the keeper to beat, and unlike Mkhitaryan at the other end he makes no mistake with his finish.
It has been a strange opening quarter of this match, with Spurs dominating possession but Arsenal creating the best chance. Once again, though, the Gunners will have to come from behind if they are to win this derby now!
Aubameyang is deadly, but not if he doesn't touch the ball. The Arsenal striker has had only three touches in the entire game so far.
SHOT! ...and he has just doubled that tally of touches! Guendouzi zips the ball into his feet and he controls it, works a yard and then drags his finish wide of the far post.
this opening half an hour or so has flown by. Arsenal need to improve if they are to drag themselves back into this match, although they have already shown that they can create chances against this Tottenham defence.
CHANCE! An Arsenal corner almost drops to Mkhitaryan, but Lucas makes a brilliant challenge and that launches a devastating counter-attack. Eriksen, Trippier and Sissoko all exchange passes to create a really good chance for the latter, but Sissoko then blazes his finish well over the crossbar.
Mkhitaryan and Lucas are both still down after that collision which sparked the counter, but there was nothing wrong with Lucas's challenge - he nicked the ball just in front of Mkhitaryan, who then kicked the Spurs man when going for the shot.
UPDATE: There is another quarter-final taking place across London at the moment, but Chelsea and Bournemouth remain goalless at Stamford Bridge.
There are more goals in this one for sure. Both sides are looking to pour forward whenever they have the ball, including Spurs despite their lead.
Spurs have been really strong in their tackles tonight. They have not held back at all, but they have also not overstepped the mark... yet.
Just five minutes left of this first half now and still Arsenal are struggling to find a way through. They are looking the most likely right now, but they haven't created a really clear chance since that Mkhitaryan one on one.
An Arsenal corner is only cleared as far as Maitland-Niles, but his first-time effort is sliced horribly off target and ends up closer to the corner flag.
Spurs almost shoot themselves in the foot here. Gazzaniga takes far too long lining up a back-pass to clear the ball, allowing Aubameyang to close him down. The ball loops up into the area and Davies also misses his clearance, but Tottenham survive.
OFF THE POST! Oooof! What a goal this would have been! A cross arrives in from the left and Ramsey meets it with a beautiful cushioned left-footed volley which flies towards the near post. Gazzaniga reacts well to turn it against the post, though, making up for that mistake moments ago.
CHANCE! Another chance for Arsenal at the end of this half! Xhaka this time plays a corner short and Ramsey whips it in to the back post. Sokratis towers above Davies, but can only plant his header wide of the far post.
There will be two minutes of added time at the end of what has been an action-packed first half.
YELLOW CARD! Guendouzi is the first man to be booked for a reckless challenge on Lucas. I venture that he may not be the last carded tonight.
HALF TIME: ARSENAL 0-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
It is advantage Tottenham at half time, then, but both sides have created enough chances to give themselves encouragement ahead of the second half.
Spurs saw plenty of the ball in that opening 45 minutes, but Arsenal created arguably more good chances and will feel that they could well be at least level in this match.
The only goal of the game so far came after 20 minutes when Son was released through by a lovely pass from Alli before finishing confidently past Petr Cech.
It came seconds after an Arsenal attack had broken down, and it is not the only time that Tottenham have hit their hosts on the break, with Moussa Sissoko also squandering a clear chance at the end of a devastating counter.
Arsenal have been far from clinical themselves, with Mkhitaryan guilty of missing a couple of chances before Tottenham opened the scoring.
The first saw the winger glance a header from Xhaka's corner right across the face of goal, but the better opening arrived when Mkhitaryan play a slick one-two with Ramsey to leave him with only the keeper to beat. Mkhitaryan tried to give the keeper the eyes, though, and ended up putting his finish too close to Gazzaniga.
Gazzaniga almost made a crucial spot to deny Ramsey towards the end of the half when he turned the Welshman's delicious volley against the post.
Arsenal ended the half strongly and came close again just a couple of minutes later, with Sokratis planting a header wide of the far post.
KICKOFF: Tottenham get us back underway for the second half at the Emirates!
ARSENAL SUB: And Arsenal have made a change at the break, with Laurent Koscielny replacing Mkhitaryan. It looks like that could be three at the back once again.
Arsenal are used to being in this position, having not led a single Premier League game at half time yet this season, but their record of still picking up a good result in the second half has to run out some time.
It is indeed a back three for Arsenal now, with Monreal and Maitland-Niles acting as the wing-backs and Xhaka staying at centre-back.
Maitland-Niles's advanced position almost pays dividends as he collects a cross inside the box, but his first touch is poor and his subsequent shot is blocked.
Free kick to Tottenham in a dangerous position as Aubameyang barges into Rose.
SAVE! Eriksen goes for goal despite the angle being against him, and Cech gets across to parry it behind despite it heading a yard or so wide.
Better goalkeeping from Cech this time as he cuts out Son's cross which was destined to give Lucas a tap-in, although VAR would have ruled it out for offside.
Sissoko trips Aubameyang from behind and Arsenal now have a free kick in a dangerous position...
SHOT! Xhaka goes for goal, but fires his effort well over the crossbar.
TOTTENHAM SUB: Spurs lead, but Pochettino is still calling for Harry Kane. He replaces Lucas.
ARSENAL SUB: Arsenal bring on a star striker of their own as Alexandre Lacazette comes on for Iwobi.
GOAL! ARSENAL 0-2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (DELE ALLI)
Huge blow for Arsenal as Tottenham double their lead with just over half an hour remaining - and it is so, so easy.
Kane drops deeps onto the halfway line to collect the keeper's pass and is allowed to turn and loft a ball forward for Alli. Alli only has Cech to beat, and his finish is sublime as he just flicks it over the keeper and into the corner.
OFF THE POST! Almost an immediate response from Arsenal as Monreal smuggles a pass through to Aubameyang, who reaches the byline before cutting the ball back for Lacazette. The Arsenal sub nudges the ball towards the bottom corner, but it shaves the outside of the post on its way behind.
This one is not over just yet! Arsenal need to throw caution to the wind now, but one goal would set up a grandstand finale here!
Trippier clips a cross into the box which Son tries to meet with a stopping header, but Sokratis is there and does enough.
ARSENAL SUB: A third and final change for Arsenal sees Eddie Nketiah replace Guendouzi.
Arsenal's pressure is already beginning to build with a few crosses into the box in quick succession. We have already seen on a few occasions how dangerous Tottenham can be on the break, though, so there could be space for them to add to their lead at the other end too.
Pochettino's stock will only continue to rise if he masterminds success in this competition and ends his wait for a trophy as a manager. There is still a long way to go, of course, but Burton Albion are one of the teams already in the last four so the chance is certainly there.
An unsavoury moment here as Alli is hit by an object thrown from the crowd, and gives the 'supporter' a glare before making sure that he knows the score. Stupid from the Arsenal fan, and you'd have to think that he is in line for a needless ban now - and rightly so!
Just 15 minutes remaining in this match now - time is beginning to run out for Arsenal! They are still only a goal away from turning this place into a cauldron, but right now their hopes look bleak.
OFF THE BAR! Almost an unexpected route back into the game for Arsenal as Aubameyang slices a cross and sends it skimming against the crossbar, with Gazzaniga going for it and missing the ball.
YELLOW CARD! Xhaka has got plenty of yellow cards in his time, and this one in completely needless and he is shown one after ranting at the official.
TOTTENHAM SUB: Another change for Spurs sees Son replaced by Erik Lamela.
This has been a really good performance from Tottenham, both on and off the ball. They have been aggressive in their challenges and have provided the killer moments when they matter.
SAVE! Almost a third for the visitors as Eriksen puts his laces through the ball and fires a very powerful effort towards goal. It is moving all over the place, and Cech manages to turn it over the top.
YELLOW CARD! Alli becomes the latest player in the book for carrying on playing when he knew he was offside. He scored too - with another lovely finish over Cech - but he knew exactly what he was doing.
UPDATE: It looks as though Chelsea will join Spurs, Man City and Burton Albion in the final four, having taken the lead through Hazard late on against Burton Albion.
Supporters are streaming out of the ground now - they know this one is over. Spurs have been very good tonight, particularly in their game management since taking the lead.
There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this match.
YELLOW CARD! Eriksen picks up a cheap yellow for preventing a free kick from being taken.
SHOT! Torreira tries his luck from distance late on, but Gazzaniga watches it wide of the target.
FULL TIME: ARSENAL 0-2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Tottenham hold on fairly comfortably in the end, and you can tell that they enjoyed that one! They are through to the semi-finals of the EFL Cup at the expense of their fiercest rivals, securing only their second-ever win at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal fans' moods will not be improved by the fact that it was Alli who was the star of the show, creating the first for Son before adding an exquisite second of his own as Spurs got swift revenge for their derby defeat earlier this month.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's EFL Cup North London derby, which ends in glory for Tottenham Hotspur at the home of Arsenal. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction - not to mention the semi-final draw too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!