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Liverpool FC: A Starting XI for the Europa League Clash with Anzhi Makhachkala

Jake WareCorrespondent IIIOctober 24, 2012

Liverpool FC: A Starting XI for the Europa League Clash with Anzhi Makhachkala

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    Liverpool face Anzhi Makhachkala in a Thursday Europa League matchup that could prove to be crucial to the team's hope of advancing to the knockout rounds.

    With Fabio Borini injured and an important league game coming up against Everton on Sunday, Reds manager Brendan Rodgers will have plenty to think about regarding his team selection.

    Liverpool need to win, but they need to rest key players. This is a prediction of Liverpool's starting XI for the Anfield clash with the mega-rich Russians. 

GK: Brad Jones

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    With Pepe Reina having picked up a hamstring injury during half-time warm-ups on international duty with Spain, Brad Jones will surely deputise in goal again for the Reds.

    The Australian has started three Europa League games for the Reds so far this season, allowing four goals against, and managed to keep a clean sheet against Reading at the weekend. He should be good enough to help Brendan Rodgers' men get the three points.

LB: Jose Enrique

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    Jose Enrique's knee injury has forced Andre Wisdom into the first-team prematurely, and while the youngster has impressed, Enrique's return is long-awaited.

    Enrique was one of the Reds' more consistent players last season, and though he has struggled to start this year, he should be important to the first XI with Martin Kelly out and Glen Johnson having played out of position on the left side of the defense so far this season.

    He returned to the squad against Reading and impressed playing in left-midfield. He should be back in his natural left-back position against Anzhi.

CB: Sebastian Coates

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    Sebastian Coates has not played all too much since joining Liverpool last summer, but has been a near-constant presence in non-Premier League games under Brendan Rodgers, and should get the start against Anzhi.

    The 6'6" centre-back will most likely be tasked with quashing 6'8" Ivorian Lacina Traore, while Samuel Eto'o will likely be handled by Coates's defensive partner.

CB: Martin Skrtel

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    Jamie Carragher has made 707 appearances in a Liverpool shirt, and though his games-per-season figures have dropped each of the past four seasons, he remains an important player.

    But for this game, with Liverpool needing a win and facing the striking genius that is Samuel Eto'o, the ever-powerful Martin Skrtel should be called upon.

    Skrtel is at his best a world-class centre-back, and he forms a very strong defensive line alongside Sebastian Coates. Problems in the back should not be a problem for Liverpool on Thursday.

RB: Andre Wisdom

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    Andre Wisdom has been nothing but impressive since stepping up into the Reds' first team, but with Jose Enrique back in the squad, opportunities will likely be more limited for the 19-year-old Englishman.

    That said, he will no doubt continue to have chances with the big boys. That includes the Anzhi matchup, where, with Glen Johnson in desperate need of a rest, Wisdom is an all-but-certain starter.

    He's proven himself in the Premier League, and is more than capable of keeping the defensive standard high against the Russians.

CDM: Joe Allen

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    Joe Allen played two full games for Wales on international duty and started at the weekend, but with four full days rest, he should be fit enough to return to the Liverpool team.

    Allen has been an integral part of the Reds first XI this season, and with plenty of young players in the team, his steady play and calm demeanor will be key against Anzhi. 

CM: Jordan Henderson

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    Jordan Henderson struggled to find his place in the team last season since his big-money move from Sunderland, but he is still only 22 and has actually played quite well in his nine appearances this year.

    And though he has filled in very well in defensive midfield for Lucas Leiva, he'll be expected to be more of an attacking threat tomorrow. Traditionally an offensive player, Henderson has the skills and mentality Liverpool will need to break down the Anzhi defense.

    He should be key in turning defense into attack.

CM: Jonjo Shelvey

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    Before he was suspended for three games for a reckless challenge on Manchester United's Jonny Evans, Jonjo Shelvey was beginning to establish himself as a legitimate first-team player for Brendan Rodgers.

    His quest to solidify himself in the first XI will continue against Anzhi, where the midfielder, who has three goals in 10 games this season and could well be the Reds' top attacking threat from the centre of the pitch, will be expected to settle in behind the striker and run the game. 

LW: Oussama Assaidi

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    Moroccan Oussama Assaidi has been one of the more pleasantly surprising Reds players since joining from Heerenveen for £2.4 million this summer and deserves another chance in the starting XI.

    Assaidi is quick, skilled and very direct. With his ability to run at defenders, he could prove to be a key figure in this fixture.

RW: Stewart Downing

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    Believe it or not, bust-extraordinaire Stewart Downing has actually been one of the Reds' most improved players this season.

    After becoming famous in 2011-12 for totaling no goals and no assists in 36 Premier League games, the £20 million man has one goal and three assists in 10 all-competition games for the Reds this year.

    He may only have gone from very dreadful to very average, but that might be a big step for Downing if he ever wants to get close to fulfilling his price-tag at Anfield. The Anzhi game is another chance for the under-confident winger to prove what a point. 

ST: Samed Yesil

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    It's time for Samed Yesil to have another chance in the first team for Liverpool.

    The 18-year-old, who joined the Reds from Bayer Leverkusen this summer and has scored eight goals in six games for the Germany U19 team, made his debut for the club against West Brom in the League Cup in September, but has not appeared since. With the injury to Fabio Borini and the important game against Everton on Sunday leaving Luis Suarez needing a rest, Yesil should have another opportunity.

    Yesil brings many of the skills Liverpool have lacked this season in high supply, including sheer finishing ability, and with Oussama Assaidi and Stewart Downing on his wings, he will be looking for his first Reds goal.

    Should things go wrong, the likes of Suarez and Raheem Sterling are solid options off the bench.

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