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    1

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    0

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    1

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UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE

Khazar Staduim

Referee: David Borbalan | Attendance: 15000

* Local time based on your geographic location.

Anzhi Makhachkala

  • Lacina Traore 45' +1'

1 - 0

FT

Rodgers wants squad men to step up

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has challenged his fringe players to prove they are worthy of a place in his first-choice side.

The Reds boss has travelled with a weakened squad to face Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League, having left behind the likes of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Joe Allen, Raheem Sterling and Nuri Sahin. It means many of the side who struggled in last week's Capital One Cup defeat at home to Swansea will be asked to improve their performances.

Included in the travelling party are the likes of Joe Cole, who came in for particular criticism after a desperately disappointing 45 minutes, and Stewart Downing.

Rodgers denied those players needed to redeem themselves against a side second in the Russian League but he is looking for some of them to show they can make a difference.

``I knew the cup game (against Swansea) was always going to be difficult,'' he told Press Association Sport.

``But I've said to the players the biggest thing we look for is that their focus and concentration is right.

``Everyone wants to play in the Premier League but this is a real opportunity to shine and show you can get into that team.

``We have already seen that this season Raheem Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom all started in the cup competitions and they are now regulars playing in the Premier League team.

``Every game is a platform. There is a great motivation there for the players but it is also the opportunity for them to prove they can play and obviously get themselves into that team.''

Rodgers defended the strength of the side he could put out at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow - UEFA will not allow Anzhi to play in their troubled home region of Dagestan.

``It is not a secondary team,'' he said. ``It is a team in order to a) win the game and b) give players an opportunity to play where they want to play.

``There is certainly no lack of respect for Anzhi. We have a squad here that we feel can get a result.''

It is not Anzhi's fringe players who are underperforming so much as their star man Samuel Eto'o, who has come in for criticism over recent weeks.

But assistant coach Zeljko Petrovic has no concerns over the form of the Cameroon international, despite not seeing him score since a 2-0 league win over Dynamo Moscow on October 7.

He has seven goals in nine Europa League games for Anzhi though, and Petrovic is hopeful he will rediscover that touch against Liverpool.

``If he don't score in the last few games, maybe he scores tomorrow,'' said Petrovic, standing in for coach Guus Hiddink who was absent from the pre-match press conference because of a bereavement.

``He's the most important player for Anzhi. If Eto'o plays it's important not just to score the goals but because he gave two fantastic assists in last game.''

While Eto'o is the Russian side's marquee big-money signing they are trying to ensure they are able to build for a more sustainable future.

Anzhi, in existence only since the 1990s, have opened a youth academy to grow their own players.

``I am very proud that Anzhi opened something brilliant in Dagestan, a fantastic academy, and that in next years maybe players and big talents from Dagestan will be able to play in the national team.''

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