Following their disappointing home defeat to West Brom earlier in the week, Liverpool will look to make amends with an improved performance against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday. Kop boss Brendan Rodgers has said that he expects his side to show a positive reaction, telling the Liverpool club website: “It's something that left the players disappointed, but they will react in the right manner. They're good guys here, they want to work well and they're very good at moving on.”
The Europa League clash against Zenit will be the second time Liverpool have travelled to Russia this season, having already faced Anzhi Makhachkala in the group stages of the competition. Liverpool have won just once in their last five fixtures in all competitions and will be hoping to catch out a Zenit side that hasn't played since December, owing to the mid-season break in Russia.
Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti will have a fully fit squad to pick from, with the Russian side recently coming through a series of friendlies unscathed.
Brendan Rodgers recently commented that his squad will contain a majority of the club's senior stars, despite their clash with Zenit sandwiched in between two Premier League fixtures. Two players who will definitely miss out are Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, with the pair cup-tied due to their Champions League exploits earlier this season. Rodgers has named youngsters Conor Coady, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey in his 20-man party.
Alexander Kerzhakov v Liverpool's centre-backs
Despite the marquee signing of Hulk in the summer, it is Zenit old boy Alexander Kerzhakov who leads the scoring charts for the Russian giants. The 30-year-old has scored 11 times for Zenit in all competitions this season and will be their biggest threat going forward. Liverpool could turn to veteran defender Jamie Carragher to stop Kerzhakov adding to that tally, although any selection would be the 35 year-old's fifth appearance in a row and his second in the space of four days. While Carragher undoubtedly brings experience to the Liverpool back-line, questions will surely be asked of his ability to play so many games in quick succession, which may lead to a recall for Martin Skrtel or a chance for Sebastian Coates to redeem himself after a shocker at Oldham.
Nicolas Lombaerts v Luis Suarez
At the opposite end of the pitch, Nicolas Lombaerts will be tasked with controlling the threat of Luis Suarez. Lombaerts will have his work cut out as he tracks the movement of the Reds talisman, who will likely be joined by Raheem Sterling and Stewart Downing in a three-pronged attacked which has been very effective in Europe so far this season. Lombaerts will need to call on his defensive partner Bruno Alves to help snuff out the threat of the Uruguyan.
Vyacheslav Malafeev v Pepe Reina
While this will be the first time these two sides have faced each other, if Liverpool's previous clashes with Russian opposition are anything to go by, then it could be quite a tight affair. Perhaps the most interesting aspect will be the role played by the opposing goalkeepers, with Zenit captain and club stalwart Vyacheslav Malafeev facing under-fire Liverpool 'keeper Pepe Reina. With speculation over Reina's long-term future continuing to circle, eyes will be on the Spanish international, who is in need of a solid performance.
Zenit St Petersburg
Malafeev, Anyukov, Lombaerts, Alves, Hubocan, Shirokov, Witsel, Danny, Zyryanov, Hulk, Kerzhakov
Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Wisdom, Allen, Henderson, Gerrard, Downing, Sterling, Suarez
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