The Carling Cup is an ideal grounding for the rigours of regular first-team football. That's the verdict of Philippe Senderos, and he should know.
Like many other Arsenal youngsters, the Swiss defender got his first taste of competitive action in the Carling Cup. Senderos made his debut at Manchester City in October 2004 and, after playing his part in a 2-1 victory, he continued his education in the next two rounds against Everton and Manchester United.
A little over two years later Senderos is an established member of Arsenal's first-team squad but he acknowledges the value of those Carling Cup opportunities. The central defender cut his teeth with a trip to Old Trafford; tonight, another batch of Arsenal youngsters will do likewise at Anfield.
"The Carling Cup is very important, especially if you play away at somewhere like Anfield," Senderos told Arsenal.com. "These are very tough games and you have to get through that kind of game with a good performance.
"Anything can happen when you play against a top team like Liverpool, especially when you play away, but the performance of young players is the most important thing.
"We are going back to Anfield after the FA Cup game and we want to win there again. Whoever plays will have the same mentality and we will see what will happen, but certainly these games are great experience for the younger players."