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5 things to know about League Cup quarterfinals

December 16, 2013

Tottenham begins life after Andre Villas-Boas with a League Cup quarterfinal match against West Ham on Wednesday, one of three all-Premier League matches in the last eight.

Spurs are likely to be without a permanent manager in the dugout for the game after Villas-Boas was fired on Monday, less than a day after a 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool in the league.

The big clubs were kept apart in the quarterfinals, with Manchester United visiting Stoke in Wednesday’s other match. On Tuesday, Manchester City plays at Leicester, the only non-Premier League team remaining in the competition, and Chelsea travels to Sunderland.

Here are five things to know about the quarterfinals:

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NEW ERA

With Andre Villas-Boas gone, Tottenham’s players will be out to impress a new manager — whoever he may be — in the match against West Ham.

Argentina forward Erik Lamela and Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen, two of Spurs’ seven expensive signings in the offseason, are among the players to have seen little game time under Villas-Boas this campaign and will be hoping for a change in fortunes under a new coach. They didn’t start the loss to Liverpool.

Whoever is in charge on Wednesday will want to shore up a defense that was repeatedly exposed against Liverpool and also in the 6-0 loss at Manchester City three weeks ago. Going forward has also been the problem this season for Spurs, who have scored only 15 goals in 15 league games this season.

West Ham has already beaten Tottenham once this season, winning 3-0 at White Hart Lane in October, but its form has been poor of late and the team is fourth from bottom in the Premier League.

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NOW’S YOUR CHANCE

The leading Premier League clubs usually use the League Cup to give their youth or fringe players a chance to impress. However, with the final in reach, will managers reverse this policy?

Chelsea fielded mostly reserve players in the 2-0 win at Arsenal in the last round and has the luxury of a deep squad from which to choose.

And given his side’s current form, Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini will likely be confident a second-string team will be good enough to see off Leicester — after all, City’s reserves beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week.

It could be a different story for Tottenham, though, which could play its strongest team as it looks to bounce back from the heavy loss to Liverpool.

And after its troubling start in the Premier League, maybe Man United will see the League Cup as its best chance of silverware this season and field Wayne Rooney and its other big names.

The lineups will give a good idea of the teams’ priorities this season.

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FINE COMPANY

Getting back in the Premier League after what would be a 10-year absence is Leicester’s priority this season, so the League Cup is something of a bonus for the team that is third in the second-tier Championship.

“The league is the most important competition for us and I’m not going to look at things differently even against one of the best sides in the world,” Leicester manager Nigel Pearson said.

Such is the importance that second-tier teams attach to being in the lucrative top flight that Pearson may even rest his best players.

“Players who are carrying niggles would be more likely to play on Tuesday if it were a league game,” Pearson added.

Leicester, whose team includes former Man City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, heads into the game on the back of a disappointing 1-1 home draw with bottom club Barnsley on Saturday.

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NO STAR STRIKERS

The two Manchester clubs will be without their No. 1 strikers for this week’s quarterfinals and likely for the entire Christmas period.

With Robin van Persie ruled out last week until January, United manager David Moyes must weigh up who starts up front against Stoke out of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, who scored twice in the 3-0 win at Aston Villa on Sunday.

As for City, some of the gloss was taken off its 6-3 win over Arsenal on Saturday with Sergio Aguero limping off at the start of the second half with what appeared a serious right calf injury. The Argentina international, who has scored 19 goals in 20 City games this season, faces at least a month on the sidelines.

Edin Dzeko is likely to replace Aguero at the King Power Stadium.

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GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY

Organizers said Monday that goal-line technology will be used in the quarterfinals for the first time in English cup football.

The Goal Decision System has been tested over the last fortnight, with FIFA confirming that the ball used in the League Cup has been calibrated to be used with the Hawk-Eye system.

“In many ways, its use in cup football is even more important than in league football,” said Andy Williamson, chief operating officer for the Football League, “as any decision about whether the ball has crossed the goal line can mean the difference between a club being knocked out or not — and could even determine the eventual Wembley winners.”

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