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In Focus: Five wantaway stars looking to impress in the Carabao Cup
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Cian Cheesbrough
James Rodriguez could get his desired move by performing in the Carabao Cup
James Rodriguez could get his desired move by performing in the Carabao Cup

The Carabao Cup second round kicks off tonight with Premier League sides joining the fray.

Managers often use the competition as a chance to hand out-of-favour players some much-needed first-team minutes — or put them in the shop window for potential moves.

Ahead of the ties, some of which take place tomorrow, we turn the spotlight on the wantaway stars who will be eager to impress ahead of the transfer window slamming shut next week.

James Rodriguez

Just one year after the 2014 World Cup star was brought to Everton by Carlo Ancelotti, things look a lot different for James Rodriguez.

With the Toffees now managed by Rafa Benitez following Ancelotti’s return to Real Madrid, the playmaker is reportedly desperate to seal a move away from Goodison Park.

During a recent stream on his Twitch social media profile, the Colombian — who is the club’s highest earner — admitted to not even knowing who Everton were playing in their second Premier League fixture.

When asked about whether he would return last Saturday, James, 30, said: "On the weekend I will not play.

"I don’t even know who Everton is playing, can you please tell me? I think it is away because the past was here at home."

It is anyone’s guess as to whether he knows tonight's opponents are Huddersfield, where he could well be given some minutes to help drum up interest — if he is considered fit enough to play, that is.

Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin looks set to leave Arsenal
Hector Bellerin looks set to leave Arsenal

After failing to feature in Arsenal’s first two Premier League games, Hector Bellerin’s time in North London looks all but up.

The Spanish right-back is thought to favour a move away from the Emirates and has been the subject of interest from Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.

Arsenal are reportedly willing to allow Bellerin, who is thought to be on £110,000 per week, to leave in order to free up funds.

And Gunners boss Mikel Arteta is clearly planning for life without him. 

The 26-year-old was an unused substitute in their first two league games behind Cedric and even left-sided Nuno Tavares was brought on over him against Brentford.

With time running out to get his wish before the transfer window closes, an impressive display against Championship side West Brom tomorrow could convince potential suitors to make their move.

Conor Hourihane

Conor Hourihane will likely leave Aston Villa this summer
Conor Hourihane will likely leave Aston Villa this summer

Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane has played a vital role for Aston Villa in recent seasons. 

But with the ambitious Villans looking to improve each year, the 30-year-old may struggle for game time this term behind John McGinn, Morgan Sanson, Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba.

Hourihane, 30, spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at Swansea, scoring five goals and registering two assists as the Welsh side reached the Championship play-off final before losing to Brentford. 

There is no doubt he still has plenty to offer a second-tier side with his set-piece expertise and ability to score from midfield. 

An assured display at League Two side Barrow could be his last appearance for Villa before heading out permanently or on loan — but unlike some other players in this list, he will leave with the best wishes from all at his club.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Ainsley Maitland-Niles will hope to secure a late move
Ainsley Maitland-Niles will hope to secure a late move

Versatile academy graduate Ainsley Maitland-Niles was once tipped to become an Arsenal regular but appears to be at a crossroads in his career.

Following a bright start to last season at the Emirates, he was rewarded with his first England cap but finished 2020-21 relegated with West Brom following an unconvincing loan spell.

Now aged 23, Maitland-Niles needs regular first-team action to progress and that looks unlikely at Arsenal, particularly in his favoured midfield position, after being left on the bench in their first two games.

He has been linked with several Premier League sides including Leicester, Southampton and Burnley this summer but time is running out of time to secure a move before next week’s deadline.

A convincing display back at the Hawthorns on Wednesday night might spring those clubs into action and convince them to make a late swoop.

Moise Kean

Moise Kean's future at Everton is uncertain
Moise Kean's future at Everton is uncertain

Moise Kean attracted much excitement when he arrived on Merseyside as a teenager from Juventus in 2019.

But he failed to live up to his promise, becoming a bit-part player at Goodison Park amid reports of him being unsettled in England before spending last term on loan at Paris Saint-Germain.

The 21-year-old became an important player for the French giants, scoring 13 goals in 26 appearances in Ligue 1 — but his future still appears to lie away from the Toffees.

When Benitez was asked about Kean's future, the Spanish manager said: "Until August 31 we have to be sure the players give everything. After that we will know exactly who is in our squad and we will concentrate on that."

The forward has time on his side. Whether he stays at Everton or gets a fresh start elsewhere, an impressive showing against the Terriers could get his 2021-22 season up and running.


EFL CupEvertonArsenalAston VillaJames RodriguezHector BellerinWillianMoise Kean
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