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Rodgers brings big guns out for Russians

LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers will risk his most important players against Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League despite the impending challenge of Sunday's Merseyside derby.

RODGERS has used fringe players in previous Europa League fixtures but will start with captain Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez even though the Uruguayan is the club's only fit senior striker.

The manager understands the threat posed by Guus Hiddink's side and is desperate to avoid early elimination from the competition. The Russian club lead their domestic league after investing heavily in high-profile players such as Samuel Eto'o, Christopher Samba and Roberto Carlos.

Rodgers is also clearly keen to build momentum after a victory over Reading last weekend. His assistant, Colin Pascoe, confirmed Liverpool would adopt a different policy to the one used against Young Boys and Udinese, when senior players were either left out or appeared as second-half substitutes.

"We are looking at this as a very important and hard game and we probably will go a little bit stronger," Pascoe said. "Anzhi 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. Anzhi, then Everton, then Swansea, Newcastle, Anzhi again and Chelsea. We are trying to mix it up because everyone can't play every game."

Meanwhile, Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones feels training every day with the likes of Suarez and Gerrard has given him plenty of preparation for facing Samuel Eto'o.

As he did in last Saturday's Premier League win over Reading, Jones is again set to deputise for the injured Jose Reina tonight when the Reds host Anzhi.

The nouveaux riche Russian side - the current Group A leaders - have several notable names among their ranks, including former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Eto'o.

Jones is fully aware of the Cameroon international's threat, but that does not mean the Australian stopper, who has only made a handful of first-team appearances for Liverpool, is in any way intimidated - particularly given the calibre of players he is used to trying to keep at bay in training. "For me, playing against whoever, it doesn't particularly bother me which player it is - it is the same idea when you go out, which is that you don't want to concede goals," Jones said.

"Obviously Eto'o is a fantastic player and has been for a number of years, playing at the top. You know you are going to have to be on top of your game, but I have to do that every day with the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard anyway.

"It is just about making sure you concentrate and do the right things."

Liverpool are unsure whether or not Reina, who picked up a hamstring problem on international duty with Spain, will recover in time to play in Sunday's league clash with Everton at Goodison Park.

Asked how long Reina was likely to be out of action for, Reds assistant boss Colin Pascoe said: "We are not quite sure at the moment.

"Hopefully not too long. He is doing his rehab at the moment and is working hard in training. So we will just have to assess him over the weekend and we will see then."

Liverpool are third in Group A on three points after two rounds of fixtures, one point behind Anzhi and second-placed Udinese.