The depth of Manchester United's squad will continue to be tested on Wednesday when the Red Devils play the first leg of their League Cup semifinal at Derby. The game is the second of six in just 17 days for a Man United squad that only returned to domestic action on Dec. 26 following a tiring pre-Christmas trip to Japan for the Club World Cup. With a Premier League match against Chelsea coming up on Sunday, manager Alex Ferguson is set to continue with the mix of first-team regulars and reserves that beat Southampton 3-0 in the FA Cup at the weekend.
But United's resources are such that it can still bolster its lineup with striker Carlos Tevez, who missed his team's last two matches because of a trip back to his native Argentina. "Carlos will be back in training on Monday and he'll be involved on Wednesday," Ferguson said. "It'll be virtually the same squad. I might leave out one or two, but it'll be more or less the same group of players."
That could mean Tevez replaces Dimitar Berbatov or Wayne Rooney to let them rest for Sunday's big game, with Cristiano Ronaldo again left out. Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson both scored against the Saints on Sunday and could make the lineup alongside the likes of Jonny Evans and Rodrigo Possebon.
United has only lifted the League Cup twice but has won all three of its games without conceding a goal since returning from Japan, suggesting that League Championship struggler Derby is set for a tough time, despite home advantage.
Derby is without a manager following Paul Jewell's resignation last week and trailed 2-0 and 3-2 at non-league Forest Green Rovers before winning 4-3 in the FA Cup on Saturday.
The second leg is at Old Trafford on Jan. 20, with the overall winner set to meet Tottenham or Burnley in the March 1 final at Wembley.
Defending champion Tottenham hosts Burnley on Tuesday in the first leg of the other semifinal.
With Darren Bent injured, Roman Pavlyuchenko will start up front for Spurs either alone or alongside Fraizer Campbell. Pavlyuchenko has scored four goals in three League Cup games this season. Croatia playmaker Luka Modric has excelled in support of a lone striker but showed in Friday's 3-1 FA Cup win over Wigan that he can also perform well in central midfield, where he could start against League Championship promotion contender Burnley.
"I dropped him into midfield and he coped great; it wasn't a problem for him," manager Harry Redknapp said. "I think we can play Luka in there because he's so good on the ball. He keeps the ball and is a great little footballer.
"He's strong enough and certainly good enough. I can't see any reason why he can't play in there for us."