Now that a place in next season’s Champions League looks unattainable, it’s possible that Liverpool will take the Europa League a touch more seriously and Brendan Rodgers might name a strong team for Thursday’s clash in Russia.
The Reds were able to reach the last-32 of the competition despite fielding experimental line-ups during the group stage and will look to get a positive result against a Zenit team who are also among the favourites to win Europe’s secondary club competition.
Liverpool’s recent unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an end on Monday when they were beaten 2-0 by West Brom, although the manager declared himself happy with the result. He’ll now look for the team to repeat their performances at Arsenal and Manchester City, with the bookies going as big as 9/4 (bet365) that the visitors win at the Petrovsky Stadium.
Daniel Sturridge was a notable absentee against the Baggies after the striker missed the game through a thigh injury although he could spearhead the team’s attack on Thursday and is quoted at 6/1 to score the first goal, although Luis Suarez is a more likely starter and can be backed at 11/2 with Sky Bet.
As for Zenit, they haven’t played a competitive match since a 1-1 draw with Anzhi back in December, with Luciano Spalletti’s side having finished third in their Champions League qualifying group which saw them into the Europa League at the knockout stage.
The Russian champions were expected to come through a qualifying group including Malaga and Milan, although poor results in Spain and at home to the Rossoneri made a top-two finish out of the question and it will be interesting to see how they regard this competition.
Liverpool have already lost once in the former Soviet Union this season and a home win looks easy to back at odds of 13/10 (Paddy Power), with the draw priced at 11/5.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Hulk form a formidable striking partnership and there will be no tired legs considering the long winter break that the players have enjoyed, although you could similarly argue that they could be a bit ring-rusty for this contest.
The bookies are struggling to split the teams in terms of qualification for the last sixteen and perhaps the Russian side are a value proposition at even money (bet365) considering Liverpool don’t look too formidable without Sturridge playing, while Steven Gerrard might be rested for the visit of Swansea this weekend.
A 1-0 win for Zenit can be backed at 8/1 and it was the scoreline which Anzhi enjoyed during the group stage when Brendan Rodgers decided against risking some of his more experienced players.