Unwanted history beckons for Liverpool in Europe
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling’s runs with the ball during a English Premier League match against Stoke. REUTERS PhotoLiverpool hosts big-spending Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala at Anfield in a Europa League Group A clash tonight with the English Premier league side seeking to avoid making unwanted history.
A 3-2 defeat to Udinese in Merseyside on matchday two leaves Brendan Rodgers’ men staring at the possibility of consecutive home defeats in Europe for the first time in the club’s existence.
Anzhi, thanks to the financial backing from wealthy owner Suleyman Kerimov, have started to flex its muscles this season with Guus Hiddink guiding the Dagestan-based club to the top of the Russian Premier League.
Undefeated in eight European fixtures this season, Anzhi will pose a serious threat to a Liverpool side that only secured its first home league win of the campaign on Saturday.
Raheem Sterling’s first-half strike proved the difference in a 1-0 victory over struggling Reading, a goal that cemented his status as the club’s second-youngest scorer behind Michael Owen and drew praise from his manager.
“The biggest thing for me is maintaining the hunger he’s got now because he can be a really top player. It’s a long way to go for him but at the moment he’s been a revelation,” said Rodgers.
“I don’t have any concerns about him at this moment. For him, right up until now, he’s been brilliant.”
Udinese, which ended Liverpool’s 13-game unbeaten home run on the continental stage, travels to Switzerland to face Group A doormat Young Boys.
Like his Liverpool counterpart, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has also used the tournament as a chance to blood some of his less experienced players.
Northern Ireland defender Shane Ferguson received plaudits for an impressive display in the Magpies 3-0 defeat of Bordeaux last time out, and the 21-year-old lauded Pardew’s handling of the younger members of the squad.
“The manager has been really good to me this season, giving me a lot of chances, and hopefully I’m taking them.
“(Pardew) has told the youngsters that there are a lot of games and if we work hard we’ll have a chance to shine,” said Ferguson.
The Group D leader welcomes Club Brugge to St James’ Park and will aim to maintain their flawless record again Belgian opposition, having won on all six previous occasions. Bordeaux meanwhile will hope to fare better on its travels as the club makes the trip to Portugal to face Maritimo.
Table-topping Lazio plays bottom side Panathinaikos in Group J’s other fixture.