By Mike Collett
LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Just over a week ago Arsenal's season was gaining momentum while their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur were still looking for their first win yet they meet in the League Cup on Wednesday with that scenario completely turned on its head.
Tottenham will host the first north London derby of the campaign in high spirits after three wins in eight days while Arsenal make the short trip to White Hart Lane beaten in their last two games while having three players sent off.
p> Spurs, beaten by Chelsea in last season's final, have beaten Sunderland & Crystal Palace in the Premier League & FK Qarabag of Azerbaijan in the Europa League & discovered a new scoring hero in Son Heung-min of South Korea who has scored three times in those games.
Arsenal, who made a bright start to their campaign, lost at Dinamo Zagreb last week in the Champions League & were then beaten at Chelsea where they had two players sent off.
While the League Cup, now called the Capital One Cup, is regarded as the season's lesser prize, both Tottenham & Arsenal would find defeat an unpalatable prospect.
As would Aston Villa & Birmingham City who meet in another derby — their first for five years — on Tuesday.
Villa were booed off when they lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday are 17th in the Premier League.
Birmingham, in contrast, have made a solid start in the Championship with just one defeat in seven & are just outside the playoff positions.
Villa manager Tim Sherwood told reporters at his pre-match briefing on Monday the game gives Villa the chance to kickstart their season.
"It's a tremendous occasion & we're looking forward to it.
"It's been a difficult start points-wise & it's a satisfactory way to send our fans home pleased because they've not had many of those this season."
Villa have won this competition five times yet lost to Birmingham in the 1963 final, Birmingham's last major honour until they beat Arsenal in the 2011 final.
Blues manager Gary Rowett said on Monday he would be putting out his strongest possible team for the trip to Villa Park even though promotion is a priority.
The third derby of the round will be at Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace play Charlton Athletic, who ground-shared with Palace for six years in the 1980s & early nineties while their own ground, The Valley, was out of commission.
Palace, despite losing their last two Premier League games to Manchester City & Tottenham, start as strong favourites to see off their neighbours who are 15th in the Championship.
Holders Chelsea commence the defence of trophy at League One (third tier) Walsall.
The Saddlers, forever linked with one of English soccer's greatest upsets after beating Herbert Chapman's Arsenal in the FA Cup in 1933, have made an superior start to the season yet a victory over Chelsea, no matter what team Jose Mourinho fields, would surpass even their famous Thirties exploits.
Liverpool, who have won the League Cup a record eight times, play Carlisle United from League Two at Anfield while Manchester United host Championship promotion contenders Ipswich Town. (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Martyn Herman)
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