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Carabao Cup

What's coming up in Round Two?

23 August 2021

Just nine months into his tenure at the Emirates Stadium, Mikel Arteta will this week manage something that eluded Arsene Wenger in the entirety of his 22 seasons at Arsenal – to lead a team out in Round Two of the Carabao Cup.

Not that Wenger minded, for it was his success in qualifying Arsenal for Europe each year that meant the Gunners were given a bye into Round Three every season.

Not since September 1995 have Arsenal played in Round Two. That tie 26 years ago involved a trip to Hartlepool where two goals from Tony Adams and one from Ian Wright gave Bruce Rioch’s side a comfortable 3-0 victory.

On Wednesday, they head to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion, a side they have beaten three times in the competition, every time by a 2-0 scoreline. The sides’ only other meeting in the competition finished 1-1 in September 2013, with Arsenal progressing to Round Four on penalties.

Given the sides’ respective starts to the season with Arsenal suffering two defeats and West Brom flying with 10 points from four unbeaten games, it's set to be an intriguing tie.

Despite reaching the Final on eight occasions, Arsenal have lifted the trophy just twice, the first time in 1987. By contrast, this week’s Round Two fixtures feature four Clubs who can claim a perfect record in League Cup finals.

Pride of place among the quartet is reserved for Wolverhampton Wanderers, the only side among them to have won more than once - in 1974 and 1980. Wolves travel to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest, another club with a storied history in the competition having triumphed four times under the great Brian Clough.

Both Clubs will be hoping cup success will kick-start their respective league campaigns after disappointing starts.

This season marks the 50th anniversary of Stoke City’s only success. Unbeaten across five games in all competitions, Michael O’Neill’s side will be looking to continue the streak at home to Doncaster Rovers.

Oxford United lifted the trophy in 1986 with a 3-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers at a sun-kissed Wembley. The sides met again in the competition a decade later, but not since – until Tuesday evening at Loftus Road, that is.

That leaves Swansea City, winners in 2013, as the only other side in Round Two with a perfect record in League Cup finals. The Swans, under new manager Russell Martin, host League One Plymouth Argyle, buoyed by their first league win of the new season.

Aston Villa and Barrow meet for the first time in any competition when Dean Smith’s side travel to Cumbria. If a shock might be seen as unlikely at Holker Street, Southampton will venture to south Wales to face Newport County with much more trepidation.

In the past four seasons alone, Mike Flynn’s Newport have beaten Swansea City, Watford, Leicester City and Leeds United in cup competitions at Rodney Parade and drawn with Newcastle, Brighton and Tottenham.

Brighton will themselves travel to south Wales this week to face Cardiff City, while Everton make the journey across the Pennines to face another Championship side in Huddersfield Town.

There are two all-Premier League ties as Watford meet Crystal Palace on Tuesday before Newcastle host Burnley at St James’ Park 24 hours later in a tie between two sides who have each lost their opening two league fixtures.

Leeds welcome Crewe Alexandra to Elland Road in what is the first-ever meeting between the sides in the Carabao Cup. By contrast, Norwich City face AFC Bournemouth in the competition for the second time in four seasons.

Last season’s Semi-Finalists Brentford find themselves cast in the unfamiliar role of giants as they face League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers, the only Sky Bet EFL club who still boast a 100% record in the new season.

The picks of the other ties in Round Two are both taking place in Lancashire with Bolton Wanderers travelling the 12 miles for a derby date with Wigan Athletic. Meanwhile, Morecambe will surely fancy themselves as Preston North End make the short journey to the coast, hoping to build on a first win of the season at the weekend.

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