Arsenal U21s side gear up for the 2020-21 EFL Trophy with Steve Bould’s travelling to Portman Road to take on Ipswich Town on Tuesday evening - with the event to be streamed live by the home side on their website for £10.
The two other sides in the group, Gillingham and Crawley play each other earlier in the day at the Priestfield Stadium.
The north Londoners then visit Crawley Town at the Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday, October 13, with their final match against Gillingham still to be confirmed.
The competition has gone through various names including the Checkatrade.com and the Leasing.com trophy and is now simply known as the EFL Trophy.
But how much do you know about the rules of the competition?
The tournament involves 48 clubs from League One and League Two – with 16 invited ‘category one’ teams, including Arsenal U21s.
Rules for EFL clubs include, but are not limited to - A minimum of four qualifying outfield players in their first team. A qualifying outfield player is defined as one who meets any of the following details:
A player who has started the previous or following first-team fixture; any player who has made the most starting appearances in league and domestic cup competitions that season; any player with 40 or more first-team appearances during the entirety of their playing career; any player on loan from a Premier League club or from a category one EFL club academy. Please note a club can play any eligible goalkeeper in the competition
For invited teams such as Arsenal the details are as follows:
Teams are required to field a minimum of six players in the starting line-up who have appeared at U21 level, as of this summer; sides can only include two players on the team sheet who are aged over 21 – or who have made forty or more appearances for the senior side. Please note a senior appearance will be defined as having played in a professional first-team fixture. This means a non-playing substitute will not count.
During the group stage, sixteen groups of four teams will be organised on a regional basis. All groups will include one invited club. All teams will face each other just once, either home or away. Please note every academy side will play all three of their group matches away from home.
Clubs will be awarded three points for a win and one point for a draw. In the event of a drawn game (after 90 minutes), a penalty shootout will be staged. The winning team will earn an extra point. Please note there will be no provision for extra time. The top two teams would progress to the knockout stage, with a trip to Wembley Stadium for the two finalists next spring.
The Gunners have taken part in the last two competitions
Freddie Ljungberg’s side played Coventry City, Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers during the 2018-19 season.
After beating the Sky Blues 3-0 at the Ricoh Arena to kick-off their campaign, then fell to a 6-2 defeat at Whaddon Road in their next match.
The side then rallied to beat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 and qualify for the next round after a good performance in the village of Nailsworth.
Incidentally, the village of Nailsworth is the smallest locale that provides a professional football team in the whole of England – with a population of 4,000.
In the next round Arsenal travelled to the south coast to take on Portsmouth.
The then Gunners captain Laurent Koscielny – whatever happened to him – made his return after a debilitating achilles injury.
He was to last for the majority of the match before he hobbled off with minute remaining in a 2-1 defeat.
The match was notable for Bukayo Saka grabbing the Gunners goal as they were knocked out of the tournament.
While they failed to progress any further, Saka was to make his first team debut only a matter of weeks later, when then first team boss Unai Emery, brought him on as a late substitute in the 4-1 victory over Fulham on New Year’s Day 2019.
Saka has continued his startling progress to be named as one of the nominees in the PFA’s Young Player of the Year trophy.
Incidentally Portsmouth were to go on and lift the 2018/19 Checkatrade Trophy Final after a dramatic penalty shootout at Wembley Stadium, which eventually saw Pompey leave the hallowed turf with the EFL Trophy for the first time in their history – in front of a record attendance of 85,021 as the pair of League One promotion rivals fought it out at the National Stadium.
The following season Steve Bould’s Arsenal U21s lost 1-0 to Peterborough at London Road in a disappointing display, following a trip to Sixfields to take on Northampton.
While they drew their opening EFL Trophy group match at Northampton 1-1, they lost the penalty shootout.
Arsenal, were reduced to ten men after Tobi Omole was sent off after a second yellow card. However, they opened the scoring through James Olayinka in the 78th minute before Sam Hoskins equalised for the home side with a matter of seconds remaining.
The match then went to spot-kicks which saw the Cobblers picking up an extra point by emerging victorious 4-3 from the spot-kicks shootout.
Tyreece John Jules grabbed the goal for Arsenal in the 1-1 draw with Cambridge in the final group match at the Abbey Stadium. The Us then won the penalty shootout 4-3 but did not do enough to qualify for the knock-out stage.
Can the young representatives from the north Londoners qualify for the group stages this season, and perhaps go further than they did two years ago?
We will find out soon.
One thing is for sure, it will be fun charting the progress of the Gunners youngsters against seasoned lower league professionals keen to make their mark against the Premier League teenagers.