Liverpool may not be competing in the Champions League, but European glory will still be on the Reds’ minds as they take on Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League.
Brendan Rodgers’ side bested the current Russian leaders 1-0 in the first meeting between these two teams and established a blueprint to continue their success.
For Anzhi, the vast amount of money spent to revamp the roster will mean little to owner Suleyman Kerimov if the team only achieves success domestically. The stakes in this match will be clear for both Guus Hiddink and his players.
Here is what each team must do to earn a victory.
Focus Attack on Samuel Eto’o
Former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o will be the most accomplished player on the field. Anzhi must make him the centerpiece of their offensive plans to find success in this match.
He will face a talented pair of centre-backs in Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, so the Russian side must be creative. Eto’o should be unpredictable with his movement and must be supported by aggressive runs from his supporting players.
Wherever space opens up on the field, that is where Eto’o should be. The ball should be on his foot as often as possible in this match.
While keeping him atop the formation in a traditional centre-forward role at times will also be important, he must be as involved as possible when the team attacks.
Push Forward Early
The last match between these two teams was a low-scoring affair, and this upcoming contest is likely to be the same.
Anzhi would greatly increase its chances of victory by throwing players forward early and grabbing the first goal.
Playing at home, the Russian side would get its supporters energized and put Liverpool in a desperate position if it struck first. The midfielders would then be able to fall back and protect the lead.
If Anzhi can score first, it will stand a fantastic chance to even up its series against the Reds.
Play the Ball Out Wide
In the last match, both Stewart Downing and Oussama Assaidi were able to find a significant amount of success on the flanks.
These players were able to effectively push forward and go at the Anzhi back line, and Downing scored the game’s lone goal.
Attacking up the sidelines will also push the opposing midfield back, thereby stranding Eto’o up top with little support. The best defense is often a solid attack, and standout play from the wide players will greatly benefit Liverpool on both ends of the pitch.
Whoever Brendan Rodgers opts to play on the wings, these players must be in top form.
Who will win this match?
If the Reds properly execute Rodgers’ tactics, they will have a decisive advantage in possession, and this will severely limit Anzhi’s opportunities.
Eto’o is a dangerous striker, and Liverpool would do well to keep the ball away from him.
In the last match, the Reds held the ball for 59 percent of the 90 minutes, according to WhoScored.com. A 60-40 split in possession would be adequate for Liverpool, but the team should be working to keep the ball for an even greater portion of the time.
If the Reds are able to knock the ball around and frustrate Anzhi, they will continue their winning ways in the Europa League.