Europa League: Can Rubin Kazan beat Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool?
The Russian side, based in the Republic of Tatarstan, are unbeaten at home in the competition, despite being stuck at the bottom of Group B.
In the reverse fixture between the sides, which was also Jurgen Klopp’s first match in charge at Anfield, Liverpool were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw. Kazan had captain Oleg Kuzmin sent off in the first half, but Liverpool were unable to make their numerical advantage count, with Emre Can’s equalizing goal after half an hour the Reds’ only reward for 35 shots on goal.
The draw marked an eighth consecutive European match without a win for Liverpool, but Klopp, who saw his side dismantle beleaguered champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the weekend, will be confident of a first win in Europe at the helm on Thursday.
Kazan have successfully negotiated the Europa League group stage for three consecutive seasons and, despite their poor domestic form, will be eyeing that second spot, with a win against Liverpool to go a long way towards reaching that. Kazan, however, sit 12th in the Russian league, just above the relegation zone, having lost nine of their opening 14 matches. They are also still to record a win in this season’s Europa League.
Despite his relative youth, Klopp won 20 of the 47 European matches for former club Borussia Dortmund, guiding the underdogs to the 2013 Champions League final, losing at the death to fierce rivals Bayern Munich.
The 48-year-old German will have been buoyed by striker Christian Benteke’s cameo performance in the 3-1 win over Chelsea last weekend and will be hoping the Belgian is fit enough to start in Russia. If the 24-year-old does start, it will be a straight scrap between Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino to join him and Phillippe Coutinho inn the front three. Liverpool remain relatively injury free, with Dejan Lovren looking to push the often shaky Mamadou Sakho in the back four.
Group B remains decidedly open, with Liverpool just one point ahead of both Kazan and French side Bordeaux in second spot with three points. Swiss side FC Sion lead the way on seven points.
Rubin Kazan will be going into the match on a high after their away win against Anzhi Makhachkala on the weekend. It should be said, however, that Anzhi are a far cry from the days of Samuel Eto’o and Willian, having initiated a fire-sale two years ago which has resulted in the side struggling to maintain top flight status.