Thursday 25 October 2012
Three sides from the English top flight are in UEFA Europa League action tonight as Liverpool host Russian outfit FC Anji Makhachkala, while Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur visit Bruges and Maribor respectively.
Liverpool may be only three days away from the Merseyside derby but Brendan Rodgers is nonetheless expected to field a strong side at home against Anji on Thursday evening, with striker Luis Suarez and captain Steven Gerrard in the running to face Guus Hiddink’s Group A leaders.
"We are looking at this as a very important and hard game and we probably will go a little bit stronger"
Rodgers, who is without forward Fabio Borini (broken foot) and goalkeeper Pepe Reina (hamstring), has tended to rest senior players for his side's European commitments.
However, with Liverpool lying third in the section, a point behind opponents who have invested heavily in the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Roberto Carlos, Lassana Diarra and Christopher Samba, the hosts look set to buck that trend.
"Look at the money they've spent," said the Reds' assistant manager Colin Pascoe. "They've played 12 domestic league games, won nine, drawn two and lost one. They've lost one in 21 games overall. The money spent is unbelievable.
"We are looking at this as a very important and hard game and we probably will go a little bit stronger. Anji are a strong unit, a big team as in big players. We are at home and we want to win. Unfortunately we lost to Udinese, even with the subs coming on.
"We are looking at a lot of factors. We have a lot of games coming up. Anji, then Everton, then Swansea, Newcastle, Anji again and Chelsea. We are trying to mix it up because everyone can't play every game."
Newcastle United are poised to take on Club Brugge with two Ameobis in their line-up with brothers Shola and Sammy poised to become the third pair of siblings to start a competitive match for the Barclays Premier League side.
"I want to see him surpass anything I've ever done in this game and I know he has the ability"
Shola Ameobi on brother Sammy
Following in the footsteps of George and Ted Robredo in the 1950s and Matty and Richard Appleby four decades later, the Ameobi brothers are likely to deputise for Senegalese strike-pairing Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
"There's nearly 11 years between us, so when we were growing up I think Sammy was maybe a little bit intimidated by me, which is normal," said Shola, the 31-year-old who was given his Magpies debut by Sir Bobby Robson. "But we have a great relationship now.
"I feel that as a big brother, I have to make sure he's on the right track all the time. I know my parents expect that of me and it's something I'm conscious about doing.
"I'm sure he's well aware of how hard it's going to be and what he has to put in to make it to the very top. But I want to see him surpass anything I've ever done in this game and I know he has the ability.
"He can do it, without a shadow of a doubt. I don't coach him because I don't profess to be a coach but I try to tell him about the mistakes I've made along the way – which are a few – and try to help him not to repeat them."
Newcastle manager Pardew believes both Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson, who looks set to start at left-back, can break into the first team. "It's a big game for Sammy and Shane," said Pardew. "I hope to see two fine performances from them."
Spanish striker Xisco has also appeared on Pardew's radar following his hat-trick for the Under-21s on Monday and although he will not feature in Belgium, his display has not been lost on the Magpies' tactician.
"For the first time since I've been here Xisco has shown some signs of life," said Pardew. "The pressure's not on him any more. I think the big fee weighted him down. He's been through a difficult time but he's sensing his confidence is coming back. I'm very pleased he got the hat-trick. I hope he can build on that."
Tottenham Hotspur are keen to bounce back from Saturday's 4-2 home defeat by Chelsea when they take on Maribor, although manager Andre Villas-Boas has suggested that an away draw will be a positive result for a side that must make do without a string of first-team players.
"A point will not be a bad result as it will keep us tight with Maribor"
Midfielder Gareth Bale, who missed the White Hart Lane reverse to witness the birth of his child, has not travelled to the Slovenian capital, while striker Emmanuel Adebayor (back), playmaker Mousa Dembele (hip), midfielder Scott Parker (Achilles) and defenders Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul (both knee) are also out.
"I think these two games with Maribor are going to be the decisive point of the group phase," said Villas-Boas. "A point will not be a bad result as it will keep us tight with Maribor. Lazio can escape if they beat Panathinaikos.
"But our two games with Maribor will be decisive. After those we will see where we stand, before we have a home game with Panathinaikos and a difficult trip to Lazio."
Liverpool v Anji Makhachkala
BSC Young Boys v Udinese
Club Brugge v Newcastle United
CS Maritimo v Bordeaux
Panathinaikos v Lazio
NK Maribor v Tottenham