Wednesday night’s Carling Cup matches see six Premier League and six lower league sides in action.
The marquee match sees a West London derby between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will be looking to rebound after a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday, while Fulham enjoyed an impressive 2-2 draw against Manchester City.
Fulham have yet to win a Premier League game this season and will want to kick-start their campaign. Chelsea, conversely, have enjoyed a relatively good start to the season and may take the chance to play some fringe players.
Chelsea and Fulham tend to play close matches against each other and the two West London sides played out tight encounters last season. Chelsea won 1-0 at home and drew 0-0 at Craven Cottage.
Meanwhile, Didier Drogba could return from injury and start for the Pensioners.
The other all Premier league match-up sees West Brom travel to face Everton. The Merseyside club beat Sheffield United 3-1 in the second round, with an own goal from Richard Cresswell and goals from Victor Anichebe and the departed Mikel Arteta helping Everton progress. Meanwhile, goals from Jerome Thomas and Simon Cox and a brace from Marc-Antoine Fortune helped West Brom to a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.
Everton’s home advantage and superior start to the season makes David Moyes’ charges slight favourites. Everton have gained seven points from a possible nine since losing to QPR in their opening match of the season, while West Brom have lost four of their five league matches this season.
Manchester City and Liverpool are the other Premier League clubs playing in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night. Manchester City play the defending champions Birmingham City, who are in the midst of a financial crisis. City’s expensively assembled and deep squad should have enough to overcome a Birmingham team that have lost many of their key players. Players who have lacked game time this season like Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Andrew Johnson, Stefan Savic and Nedum Onouha could be in line for starts. Owen Hargreaves may also make his debut for the Manchester team.
Birmingham have not yet adapted to Championship football and have lost three and drawn one of their six Championship matches this year. Chris Hughton’s men will be eager to defy early season form and put in a good performance against City.
Liverpool enjoyed a good start to the season, but have struggled in the last two weeks. Impressive victories over Arsenal and Bolton have been forgotten after disappointing defeats to Stoke and Spurs in successive weeks. Brighton have made a brilliant start to the season and sit third in the Championship after five wins in seven matches. The Seagulls lost 1-0 away to Leicester on Saturday, however.
To reach this stage, Brighton beat Gillingham 1-0 in round one and enjoyed an impressive 1-0 victory over Sunderland after extra time in the second round. A second string Liverpool team beat Exeter 3-1 in round two.
The two non-Premier League ties see Cardiff host Leicester and Preston travel to Southampton. Cardiff and Leicester have had relatively good starts in the competitive Championship. Cardiff sit sixth after three victories and three draws in their opening seven matches, while Leicester are one point and three places behind their opponents. Leicester qualified for the third round after beating Rotherham United 4-1 and Bury 4-2. Cardiff beat Oxford United 3-1 and Huddersfield 5-3, both after extra time.
Southampton have enjoyed a brilliant start to the season. The Saints have won eight of their nine matches in all competitions and occupy first place in the Championship. The Saints’ only loss was a 3-2 defeat to Leicester, while Southampton beat Torquay 4-1 and Swindon Town 3-1 to reach round three. Preston North End are the only League 1 side in action on Wednesday. Preston are sixth in League 1 after five victories and one draw in their first seven matches.