The Reds will, barring a disaster, still qualify for the Europa League knockout round with or without points from Thursday’s matchup against their Russian opponents. Liverpool defeated Anzhi Makhachkala 1-0 in their last matchup on October 25 at Anfield.
This time the Group A competitors will square off at Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow. The shift in venue illustrates the importance of the match for the Russian side. Lokomotiv was the home for the Russian national team during its 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
While this match wouldn’t be a lock regardless, Liverpool is holding some of its starting players out so that they are ready for this weekend’s English Premier League clash against Chelsea.
Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin, Daniel Agger, Jose Reina, Glen Johnson and Raheem Sterling have not traveled to Moscow for the match, according to BBC Sport.
The Reds have struggled with consistency in their young side, and not shipping some of their strongest footballers doesn’t bode well for their chances of walking out of Russia with a victory. Still, it’s a perfect opportunity for some of the youngsters to step up and make a name for themselves.
In that sense, victory or even a draw, ideally, is not out the realm of possibility.
A victory may not be needed, though, as the competition in Group A is somewhat lacking. Liverpool will finish out group play with matches against the Young Boys and Udinese, teams they beat in their opening matchups.
That could be a strong factor behind Brendan Rodgers’ decision to preserve his key players for a challenging weekend date with the Blues at Stamford Bridge.
Also, the Reds have fallen short of what little expectations they had in the EPL, recording just 11 points and posting a 2-5-3 record to this point. That could also be fueling this decision.
No matter what it is, this is good news for Anzhi. The Russian side could more or less solidify their entry into the knockout round if they do in fact come away with the win at Lokomotiv.
That's the most likely outcome due to the circumstances.