Liverpool – Anzhi Makhachkala Preview: Merseysiders look to bounce back from Udinese defeat

With the eagerly anticipated Merseyside derby with Everton on the horizon, Brendan Rodgers will again look to rotate his squad for the Europa League as he prepares for the visit of in-form Russian moneybags Anzhi.

Rodgers’ hand has been forced somewhat by the injuries to Pepe Reina (hamstring), Martin Kelly (knee) and Fabio Borini (foot), all of whom would have surely played in this fixutre. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling could all be rested.

In their place should come fringe squad members such as Jamie Carragher, Sebastien Coates, Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing. However, without any other senior striker available to them, Luis Suarez looks set to lead the line once again for the Reds.

Big-spending Anzhi, led by former Netherlands and Russia coach Guus Hiddink, have impressed in the Russian league this season and currently top the standings by two points from CSKA Moscow.

Hiddink could make only one change from the starting XI that secured a 2-1 victory over title rivals Spartak Moscow at the weekend, with France international midfielder Lassana Diarra (knee) dropping out.

In Christopher Samba and Yuriy Zhirkov the Dagestan outfit have players who will have competed at Anfield before, while their attack is set to be spear-headed by African legend Samuel Eto’o, reportedly the highest-paid player in world football.

  • Stewart Downing may have failed to either score or assist in the Premier League since arriving at Anfield, but the winger has contributed a goal and three assists in Europe this season.
  • Liverpool won this competition under the guise of the UEFA Cup back in 2001 as part of a “treble” season that included both FA and League Cup triumphs.
  • Brad Jones is set to make only his eightH start for Liverpool despite arriving in the summer of 2010, three of those have come in the Europa League.
  • The last time Liverpool played Russian opposition came in the 2005 Uefa Super Cup final, where two Djbril Cisse goals helped see off CSKA Moscow in a 3-1 victory.
  • Anzhi are on a four-match winning streak and are currently unbeaten in all competitions since August 12.
  • Samuel Eto’o is currently this season’s Europa League top goalscorer, with seven strikes to his name.
  • Anzhi centre-back Christopher Samba once lined up as a lone striker for Blackburn in their 4-0 defeat at Anfield in April 2009.
  • This is Anzhi’s first participation in European competition since the 2001-02 season, where they were defeated by Scottish side Rangers. The match was chosen to be played on a one-legged affair at a neutral venue in Warsaw, Poland due to the unstable situation in Chechnya.
  • Anzhi’s Yuriy Zhirkov only started once against Liverpool during his two-year spell at Chelsea, coming at Anfield in a 2-0 home victory courtesy of a Fernando Torres (who now plays for Chelsea) double.

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