THURSDAY night provides Liverpool Football Club with the opportunity to face opposition they have never come across before, as they take on Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala at Anfield, in the Europa League group stage.
Not many people can say they have a plethora of knowledge regarding the team currently occupying top spot in the Russian League, and first place in our very own Europa League group stage.
And with those facts Liverpool know they are in for some tough matches.
Established just 21 years ago in 1991 by businessman Magomedsalam Magomedov, Anzhi began playing football in Russia’s Dagestan league and became the Russian republic champions in the same year. Following the dismissal of the Soviet Union, Anzhi began to compete in the Russian professional leagues and after promotion from the second division at the second time of asking they spent a period of ten years leapfrogging between the first division and the Russian Premier League before finally returning to the top flight in 2009.
The club suffered heartache in 2010 when star defender Shamil Burziyev died in a car accident at the age of just 25. However, it was not long after, January 18th 2011 to be specific, that Anzhi Makhachkala and its supporters had their finest day to date when the club was purchased by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov. The Russian reassured everybody connected with Anzhi that he was looking to restructure the whole club while investing money into playing staff as well as a new 40,000 seater stadium.
One of the first signings under the regime of Kerimov was 2002 World Cup winner Roberto Carlos, who now serves as Director of Football at the club. It was a signing that signalled his intentions from the start as he also brought in prolific Brazilian striker Diego Tardelli from Atletico Miniero, as well as the likes of Yuri Zhirkov and Balázs Dzsudzsák.
Despite this, all of Kerimov’s transfers were trumped by the one signing that shook the world – Anzhi secured the signature of Samuel Eto’o from Inter Milan for a fee of €27 million and gave him a staggering €20 million a year contract. Kerimov has spent roughly €160 million on players since arriving and there are no suggestions he is willing to stop as he looks to take Anzhi to the top of Russian and European football.
On the field, Anzhi Makhachkala, under the guidance of their relatively new manager Guus Hiddink, finished the 2011/2012 Russian Premier League season in 5th place with Eto’o scoring 13 goals as their top goal scorer. This season they currently sit top of the tree in the Russian Premier League with nine wins out of twelve and just one defeat. Anzhi also top their Europa League group with four points from six after a 1-1 draw away to Udinese followed by a 2-0 home win against Young Boys.
Anzhi now face a double-header against Liverpool in what should be two cracking football matches, with the European experience of the Reds up against strong newcomers to European football in Anzhi Makhachkala.