Liverpool’s Europa League journey takes them to Russia on Thursday, 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 defence despite his relative inexperience, to counter the potential aerial threat of 2.03-meter striker Lacina Troare. Close behind Liverpool and Anzhi are Udinese and Young Boys, who have four and three points, respectively. If Udinese win and Liverpool don’t, the Italian side will move ahead of them.
In Group B, leader Atletico Madrid will be looking at the game against Portugal’s Academica — bottom of the group with one point — as a chance to bounce back from a loss to Valencia at the weekend, the club’s first defeat in 23 games.
The defending champions should have two-time Europa League top-scorer Radamel Falcao in the team, despite the forehead injury he got against Valencia.
Elsewhere in the group, Plzen hosts Hapoel Tel-Aviv. Fenerbahce have relied on their away form to take them to the top of Group C, and are at home to AEL Limassol, which has just one point from its three games. Marseille host Borussia Monchengladbach.
Newcastle can secure qualification from Group D with a win at Club Bruges. Second-placed Bordeaux host bottom-of-the-group Maritimo. Inter Milan is top of the AP Global Rankings after beating Juventus at the weekend, and will go into its Group H match against Partizan Belgrade after nine consecutive victories.