Thursday nights, ITV4: Liverpool v Anzhi
Liverpool host big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League on Thursday and will be aiming for just their third win at Anfield, under Brendan Rodgers.
The Europa League is not the competition either club aspire towards; Liverpool fans are desperate for a return to Champions League football while Anzhi are looking to capitalize on their cash injection and take the automatic qualifier for the elite competition.
After heavily investing last year, Anzhi finished a lowly 12th in the Russian League but the luxury additions have now started to gel and the club now top their domestic championship. They have been aided by an implosion at their rivals Zenit, who have been seriously destabilised by the summer signings of Alex Witsel and Hulk for a fee of around €80 million.
Samuel Eto’o (who will have earned €5 by the time you’ve read this sentence) is the main man for the Dagestan outfit, and he has already matched his goal tally from the 2011-2012 season. Despite a disappointing eighth place finish in the regular season, Anzhi made it up to fifth in the championship group phase last year, and the appointment of wily Guus Hiddink has made them a formidable European opponent.
Anzhi bought Lacina Traore for €18 million from rivals Kuban Krasnodar over the summer despite the presence of Eto’o up front, and the club are in a position where they can spend this kind of money to effectively weaken rival teams. Other new signings; Ewerton and Lassana Diarra, have continental experience from Braga and Real respectively, and will help Makhachkala in Europe this season.
Liverpool have looked in good shape in Europe and with injury to Liverpool’s sole out-and-out striker, Brendan Rodgers now has no choice but to put faith in his young players. They have looked sumptuous on the ball at times, but some shocking defending has cost the younger squad in the Europa and likewise the senior players in the Premier League.
Jonjo Shelvey is Liverpool’s top scorer in Europe with three goals from two, but some scandalous defending against Udinese cost Liverpool three points in their second match (how many touches did Di Natale want to take in the box?).
On €384,000 a week, we’d expect Samuel Eto’o to at least grab a goal anytime at 13/8, and the Cameroon striker has a good return against English sides; thwarting Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League Final and United in 2009. Liverpool are likey to name a strong side, despite the Sunday Merseyside derby, but the European nous of Anzhi should prevail; they are 23/10 for the win.
A must-watch game from the early kick-offs pits Internazionale against Partizan Belgrade. The threat of hooliganism hangs over this fixture, as the Partizan ultras are believed to be in favour with Milan ultras who were beaten by Inter two weeks ago. Serbian hooligans see Italy as a laissez-faire target and Inter will be hoping on-field events are less dramatic, having never lost to Partizan. Inter under Stramaccioni have started to pick up points in Serie A and should win handsomely; back Cassano to score first and Inter to win @ 7/2.
Borussia Monchengladbach versus Marseille promises to be another cracker, and hopefully the French side will attract headlines without Joey Barton. Die Fohlen have endured a torrid start to the season, eliminated from the Champions League before it began in full and their Bundesliga form has been equally poor. Bar a piece of Arango magic, I can’t see Monchengladbach halting OM; back them to win at 21/10.
Our away multiple tip for tonight: Anzhi, Twente, Spurs and Udinese to win pays at 42/1 with Betfair. Well worth a pound.
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