Despite having the Merseyside derby just three days away, Liverpool’s precarious position in their Europa League group means that manager Brendan Rodgers is expected to field a strong lineup at home to Russian’s Anzhi Makhachkala.
Liverpool suffered defeat to Udinese last time out that leaves them in third place in Group A on three points, a point behind the Italians and leaders Anzhi. Three points are very much needed on Thursday at Anfield and Rodgers is expected to select his side accordingly.
Luis Suarez, the club’s only fit established striker, should retain his place, while captain Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are also likely to be in the lineup. With a changed Liverpool defense having conceded three goals each to Young Boys and Udinese, their first choice center-back pairing may well be needed.
Rodgers will not be able to call upon goalkeeper Pepe Reina, though, with the Spaniard yet to recover from a hamstring injury. That means that Brad Jones will continue to deputize and the Australian claimed that he has no fear about facing Anzhi’s star man Samuel Eto’o.
“Eto'o is a fantastic player and has been for a number of years," he said, according to Liverpool’s website.
"He has played at the top and you know that you are going to have to be on top of your game against him.
"But I have to do that every day with the likes of Suarez and Gerrard anyway. You just need to make sure you concentrate and do the right things.
"For me it doesn't particularly bother me what player I'm facing. It's the same idea when you go out—you don't want to concede goals."
Eto’o is the most visible example of the influx of money that has propelled the club into being a major force. After finishing fifth last season, Anzhi currently lead the Russian Premier League under renowned manager Guus Hiddink.
In terms of history, the two clubs could not be further apart. While Liverpool is one of the most renowned names in world soccer, with five European Cups in their trophy cabinet, Anzhi was only formed in 1991.
The club and their squad now need to be taken seriously both at home and abroad. Far from just a one man team, Anzhi have assembled a strong squad. Former Blackburn defender Christopher Samba is a strong presence at the back, while they also have former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov at on the left side and prolific Senegalese forward Lacina Traore to link up with Eto’o.
Anzhi will be missing another of their stars on Thursday, though, with former Real Madrid man Lassana Diarra out with a knee injury.
D: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique
M: Shelvey, Gerrard, Sahin
F: Downing, Suarez, Assaidi
Anzhi Makhachkala (probable)
D: Logashov, Samba, Joao Carlos, Zhirkov
M: Agalarov, Jucilei, Boussoufa, Shatov
F: Traore, Eto’o
Prediction: Anzhi’s visit to Anfield promises to be a real challenge for Liverpool. Hiddink’s side have won 11 and draw one of their last 12 matches in all competitions and are sure to be in confident mood for what is the club’s first ever match against English opposition.
While the visitors will be missing the midfield stability of Diarra, going forward they have more than enough to cause Liverpool’s back line ample problems. If Rodgers does play a strong lineup then Liverpool should be competitive but they may struggle to get the three points.
Liverpool 1-1 Anzhi Makhachkala
Where to watch: The Europa League Group A match kicks-off from Anfield at 5.05 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available via FoxSoccer2Go.