Liverpool in difficult trip to wealthy Russian side Anzhi
LONDON - The Associated Press
Liverpool beat Anzhi Makhachkala in the two teams’ first Europa League meeting two weeks ago. REUTERS photoLiverpool’s Europa League journey takes it to Russia tonight, as manager Brendan Rodgers’ struggling side takes on free-spending Anzhi Makhachkala, whose big money signings have turned the former minor club into a major player in Europe.
Liverpool has been winless in the three games since its last Europa League match, where a Stewart Downing goal earned a 1-0 win at home to Anzhi.
The obvious threat for Anzhi is former Inter Milan and Barcelona player Samuel Eto’o, purportedly the highest paid footballer in the world. Regular Liverpool center backs Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel will be tasked with stopping him.
However, Liverpool may be tempted to field 1.96-meter Sebastian Coates in central defense despite his relative inexperience, to counter the aerial threat of 2.03-meter striker Lacina Traore.
Close behind Liverpool and Anzhi are Udinese and Young Boys, who have four and three points, respectively.
In Group B, leader Atletico Madrid will be looking at the game against Academica, bottom of the group with one point, as a chance to bounce back from a loss to Valencia at the weekend.
After the Valencia match, manager Diego Simeone said, “We continue fighting to be on top. This will not stop anything.”
Elsewhere in the group, Plzen hosts Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
Newcastle can secure qualification from Group D with a win at Club Bruges. Second-placed Bordeaux hosts bottom-of-the-group Maritimo.
Inter striker Diego Milito said this week that the team is a “united group which goes beyond any nationality.” The team is top of the Serie A after beating Juventus at the weekend, and will go into its Group H match against Partizan Belgrade full of confidence, after nine consecutive victories.
In contrast, for Partizan anything but a win and a first goal in the tournament would make progression to the next round extremely unlikely.
Russia’s Rubin Kazan, top of the group, travels to Azerbaijani club Neftchi, struggling with one point from the first three games.
Lazio must win its home match against Panathinaikos to maintain pole position in Group J, but comes into the match after a 4-0 defeat to Catania on Nov. 4.
In Group F, AIK Solna hosts Dutch side PSV and Dnipro travels to Napoli, hoping to secure qualification with a fourth win.
Former Champions League regulars Lyon lead Group I, and take its 100 percent record to Athletic Bilbao. Second-placed Sparta Prague goes to Hapoel Kiryat.