Chelsea seek first win under Grant at Hull

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LONDON, Sep 24 (Reuters) Holders Chelsea should get their first victory under new coach Avram Grant and end a run of four matches without a win when they visit Hull City in the League Cup third round on Wednesday.

England's second domestic cup competition moves up a gear with the entry of the clubs exempted up until now because they are involved in either the Champions League or UEFA Cup.

Five all-Premier League ties will be settled with table-toppers Arsenal, beaten by Chelsea in last season's final, hosting Newcastle United in the standout game of the round at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow.

The other all-Premier League games are between Reading and Liverpool, who have won the competition a record seven times, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, Fulham and Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough.

Manchester United also enter the competition with a home match against Championship (second division) club Coventry City, while neighbours Manchester City, who have made a good start to the season under Sven-Goran Eriksson and are third in the Premier League, host Norwich City, also of the Championship.

Many clubs in the top flight often field younger or squad players in the League Cup. However, Chelsea's Grant does not have that luxury as he begins to assert his authority on his new team in the wake of Jose Mourinho's exit from Stamford Bridge.

The League Cup was the first trophy Mourinho won at Chelsea in 2005, and the already intense pressure on Grant would increase enormously if Chelsea were to slip up.

HULL STRUGGLE Hull, who lost 1-0 to bottom club Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship on Saturday, are currently 18th in the 24-team second tier.

The last time the clubs met, in the third round of the FA Cup in 1999-2000, Chelsea won 6-1 at Hull and a similar scoreline would do wonders for the club's morale this week.

Arsenal, unbeaten in their last 16 matches in all competitions since losing to West Ham last April, reached the final with a young side last season.

Manager Arsene Wenger will be looking to advance against Newcastle, who are likely to be without Michael Owen as the England striker needs another scan on a troublesome groin.

The other Premier League clubs in action are facing Championship opposition, with Portsmouth at Burnley, West Ham hosting Plymouth Argyle and Everton at Sheffield Wednesday.

Aston Villa, the first winners of the trophy in 1961, face Leicester City, who won the last League Cup final to be staged at the old Wembley Stadium in 2000.

An incentive for the last 32 teams left in the competition is to get to this season's final on Feb. 24, which returns to a re-built Wembley after seven seasons in Cardiff.

REUTERS BJR HS1649

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