11 exciting players we can't wait to see in the EFL Cup this week
1. Ola Aina, Chelsea
Aina was heavily involved during Chelsea’s pre-season and could be given a run-out when Bristol Rovers travel to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. The 19-year-old right-back is quick and dynamic, while his previous experience of playing as a winger means he has plenty to contribute in advanced areas.
Jose Mourinho labelled Aina “a boy with lots of potential” last year, and the teenager will be determined to prove the Manchester United manager right if he’s given the nod against the Gas.
2. Marko Grujic, Liverpool
Grujic was linked with Juventus, Inter and Chelsea before joining Liverpool in January, and the 20-year-old midfielder is in line for his first start against Burton in the second round of the EFL Cup.
The former Red Star man was a key part of the Serbia team who triumphed at last year’s Under-20 World Cup, and he’ll now be keen to showcase his talent in front of an English audience. Tall, athletic and intelligent, Grujic has the requisite attributes to play a box-to-box role for the Reds.
3. Oliver Burke, Nottingham Forest
“He’s a similar player to Gareth Bale,” Nottingham Forest defender Thomas Lam said of Burke this week. “I don’t want to say he’s definitely going to be as good as him. But you can see the similarities there.”
The Scottish winger has reportedly attracted the attention of Arsenal, Liverpool, Sunderland and Crystal Palace this summer, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if a number of Premier League clubs were to send scouts to watch Burke and Forest face Millwall this week.
4. Jonathan Leko, West Brom
Leko broke into the West Brom team towards the end of last season when Tony Pulis selected him from the start of Premier League clashes with West Ham, Bournemouth and Liverpool. With it, he became the first player to play in the Premier League born in 1999.
The DR Congo-born forward also played 25 minutes of Saturday’s defeat by Everton and will be hoping to start when West Brom travel to Northampton in the EFL Cup on Tuesday. Able to play either out wide or through the middle, Leko’s a speedy and tricky operator who has clearly impressed Pulis in recent months.
5. Isaac Success, Watford
Watford acquired Success from Granada for £12.5m at the start of July. A hamstring injury ruled him out of the Hornets’ first two Premier League outings, but the 20-year-old Nigerian is now back in full training and could make his competitive debut against Gillingham.
Success spent much of last term playing in a wide role for Granada, so it will be interesting to see exactly where he fits in in Walter Mazzarri’s favoured 3-5-2 formation. He’s versatile enough to play in a central attacking position, while another option could be to convert him into an attacking wing-back with licence to get forward on a regular basis.
6. Jordan Pickford, Sunderland
Pickford is Sunderland’s No.2 this term and likely to be included in David Moyes’s starting line-up against Shrewsbury on Wednesday night. The youngster is a fine shot-stopper and full of confidence when it comes to commanding his penalty area, but the attribute of his that stands out most is his distribution – a sublime assist for England Under-21s against Kazakhstan was evidence of that wonderful ability with his feet.
He’s still only 22 and there’s certainly room for improvement, but Pickford looks set to have a long career in the Premier League ahead of him.
7. Christian Benteke, Crystal Palace
Okay, not a youngster, but a player with a big future at the Eagles. Benteke signed for Palace on Saturday, with Palace paying a club record fee of £27m to bring the Belgium international to Selhurst Park.
Alan Pardew’s side, who take on Blackpool on Tuesday, have failed to net in both of their two matches so far this season – and while chance creation has been more of a problem than poor finishing, Palace will certainly pose more of a threat with Benteke as their spearhead.
Oops my bad lol Yes I signed for cpfc and not burnley. Sorry for the little mistake the person that manages my Twitter got a little confused
— Christian Benteke (@chrisbenteke) 20 August 2016
8. Nathaniel Chalobah, Chelsea
21-year-old midfielder Chalobah spent last season on loan at Napoli, for whom he made only five Serie A appearances.
The Chelsea academy product has also had loan spells with Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Reading in the last four years, and he’ll probably have to make an impact at Stamford Bridge soon if he’s to have a long-term future with the west Londoners. A positive performance against Bristol Rovers would be a great place to start.
9. Ramadan Sobhi, Stoke
Sobhi’s capture from Al Ahly excited Stoke supporters, who will be hoping to see the winger make his first competitive start for the club against Stevenage this week.
Described by former Tottenham striker Mido as the “best talent in North Africa”, the 19-year-old is a tricky and direct dribbler who usually does his best work on the left flank, from where he can cut inside onto his stronger right foot.
10. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool
The wonderfully named Alexander-Arnold looks set to be involved in Liverpool’s game with Burton, despite Jurgen Klopp’s insistence that he won’t be making “seven or eight changes” to his starting XI (perhaps he’ll make nine).
The 17-year-old midfielder, who brags energy, drive and a fine range of passing, was on the bench against Arsenal nine days ago but is still awaiting his senior debut for the club he first joined at the age of six.
11. Tom Davies, Everton
Davies made his Premier League bow as a late substitute against Southampton in April before winning the man-of-the-match award for his performance in the 3-0 victory over Norwich on the final day of the 2015/16 campaign.
The 18-year-old is a midfielder by trade but was deployed at right-back by Ronald Koeman during pre-season, a role he insisted he was happy to fulfil if it boosted his chances of a first-team place. A home tie with Yeovil could be the perfect time for Koeman to see what the teenager is made of in a competitive encounter.