LIVERPOOL will leave behind a host of star names when they travel to Moscow today ahead of their Europa League clash with Anzhi Makhachkala tomorrow night.
Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Joe Allen are all set to be rested for the trip to Russia, along with Glen Johnson and Pepe Reina, who won’t be risked after recent treatment on hamstring problems.
Brendan Rodgers is keen to avoid over-exerting his key players ahead of Sunday’s Premier League showdown with high-flying Chelsea.
The Reds will only return from Russia in the early hours of Friday morning and the Anfield boss wants to ensure they have the best possible chance of triumphing at Stamford Bridge.
The game in Moscow will be an opportunity for those on the fringes to atone for last week’s disappointing League Cup exit at the hands of Swansea City.
It’s a balancing act for Rodgers as he tries to plot Liverpool’s progress both domestically and in Europe with a small squad. The Northern Irishman, who has admitted he desperately needs to strengthen in January, has made no secret of the fact that the Premier League is the priority this season and wants to ensure fatigue is not an issue against Chelsea.
Liverpool beat Anzhi 1-0 at Anfield a fortnight ago, but that victory was secured with the likes of Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Gerrard and Suarez in the starting line up.
This time Jamie Carragher will captain the Reds and there are also set to be starts for Sebastian Coates, Jordan Henderson, Nuri Sahin, Oussama Assaidi and Jack Robinson.
Without Suarez, Rodgers’ striking options are severely limited. German youth international Samed Yesil will be hoping to get another chance to shine after struggling on his home debut against Swansea last week. Academy graduates Adam Morgan and Michael Ngoo are also expect-ed to travel to Russia.
Morgan, who made his first team bow against Hearts back in August, will be hoping to force his way back into Rodgers’ plans after a recent stint training at the Kirkby Academy rather than Melwood.
Ngoo, who has yet to feature in the first team, joined the Reds from Southend United in 2009. The gangly frontman scored in Liverpool Under-21s’ 5-1 rout of Wolves on Monday night.
The Reds’ victory over Anzhi last month, coupled with Young Boys’ shock win over Udinese, gave them some breathing space in Group A.
Rodgers’ side lead the way on six points with Anzhi and Udinese two points further back. It means the Reds could slip up tomorrow night but still be in a decent position to qualify with Young Boys at home and Udinese away to come.