This week's top five League Cup performers

Sports Mole selects five players that have impressed during this week's League Cup fourth-round fixtures.

The League Cup has already thrown up plenty of surprises during the opening rounds, and that has continued this week as Manchester City joined Arsenal and Manchester United in being eliminated from the competition.

Chelsea could have joined their Premier League rivals had they not nicked a late winner at Shrewsbury Town, while Liverpool's participation in the competition has only continued because of two late goals against Swansea City.

Derby County, Bournemouth and Sheffield United also hit the headlines for dramatic victories to throw up an intriguing last-eight draw that will see just one all-Premier League encounter take place.

Below, Sports Mole selects five players that have stood out over the past 48 hours.

1. Jermaine Grandison

Jermaine Grandison may have scored an own goal that eventually resulted in his team falling to a narrow defeat to Chelsea, but this was the coming of age of the 23-year-old who has surely put himself in the shop window for a move in January.

From the off, the Shrewsbury Town defender made his presence felt against the Blues' legendary striker Didier Drogba, and more often than not, the former Coventry City trainee was overpowering a man who has built a reputation for his physicality during the past decade.

Gaps did begin to open up as Chelsea improved after the break but for lengthy periods, Grandison still held his own before inadvertently putting through his own net when trying to intercept a cross from Willian.

It was a disappointing end for the centre-back, but with Tottenham Hotspur having been reportedly interested during the summer, it shouldn't be long before another Premier League club come knocking on the door of Greenhous Meadow.

2. Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli has found himself on the front and back pages for the wrong reasons recently, but the striker, who cost Liverpool £16m in the summer, went a small way to paying back some of his transfer fee with an effective cameo display against Swansea City.

The Welsh team looked to be on course for victory at Anfield before the Italian forward got ahead of his marker to poke the ball into the bottom corner from six yards out for just his second goal in a Liverpool shirt.

Liverpool's Italian striker Mario Balotelli plays during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane in London on August 31, 2014© Getty Images

That sparked a late siege from the Reds, who netted deep into added-on time through Dejan Lovren to book their place in the last eight where they will now play Bournemouth.

It remains to be seen whether Balotelli can build any momentum off the back of this goal, but after attracting criticism from all quarters since August, it was a welcome boost for the controversial 24-year-old.

3. Michael Higdon

Sheffield United looked down and out against League One rivals MK Dons on Tuesday night after falling behind to a Benik Afobe penalty but after coming off the substitutes' bench, Michael Higdon struck twice in the final four minutes to extend the Blades' unbeaten run.

The 31-year-old's opener came as a result of a header from a Robert Harris cross before he completed the turnaround in injury time when keeping his composure to tap home at the back post for an unlikely win.

The success, which was the sixth match without defeat for Nigel Clough's team, has resulted in United being drawn at home to Southampton in the last eight as they look to make the semi-finals of a domestic cup competition for the second time this year after competing in the latter stages of the FA Cup last spring.

4. Graziano Pelle

Graziano Pelle boasted one of the best strike-rates in Europe during his last two seasons with Feyenoord, but the Italian wasn't expected to come near that return after making the switch to Southampton in the summer.

However, Pelle has proved to be a revelation at St Mary's Stadium after helping the Saints to second position in the Premier League, and he continued his ruthless form in front of goal with another double against Stoke City on Wednesday night.

Graziano Pelle of Southampton celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on September 13, 2014© Getty Images

His first came when he curled the ball into the corner from long range before he regained the lead for his side with two minutes remaining when driving the ball past Asmir Begovic.

The goals took his total to nine in 12 matches for his new team, and Ronald Koeman will be hoping that he can maintain his hot streak as the South Coast club look to secure a European place for next season.

5. Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor may not have had a direct impact on Newcastle United's 2-0 victory at Manchester City on Wednesday evening, but the versatile right-sided player deserves recognition for coming through last night's match.

The 30-year-old has endured two years of hell on Tyneside after being struck down by back-to-back serious knee injuries leaving him without a competitive outing since August 2012 but the former Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic man was trusted by manager Alan Pardew to make his return against the Premier League champions.

Many would have expected Taylor to last no more than an hour, but as his team stunned their hosts at the Etihad Stadium, he played the full 90 minutes in a performance that would have been greatly received by everyone in English football.

Taylor capped his night with a block on the line from Edin Dzeko in the closing stages, and while it is still early days, the Magpies will be encouraged by his progress ahead of the winter months.

Ronald Koeman, manager of Southampton looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield on August 17, 2014
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1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
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