Thursday's Europa League Preview
After a disappointing week for the British clubs in the Champions League, that saw four defeats for our teams and just the solitary victory, albeit in less than spectacular fashion for Manchester United.
Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle have the opportunity to restore some pride for the Brits, and for the Premier League in particular, as Thursday's Europa League group matches take centre stage.
Spurs are the early kick-off as they travel to Slovenia to tackle potentially tricky opponents Maribor. The visitors are the favourites to triumph in 90 minutes at 8/11 but the men from White Hart Lane have been less than convincing in Europe thus far, taking two draws and two points from their opening two matches. A stalemate at the Ljudski vrt stadium may look unlikely but if Andre Villas Boas does decide to shuffle his pack and rest some of his squad, then the 5/2 on offer may become more appealing.
The hosts are not well fancied by the bookies and have been pushed out to 4/1. After being beaten home and away by Championship Birmingham City in last season's competition, the omens don't look good against a Spurs team that has lost only once in its last five European away games.
Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor have not travelled with the squad for this Europa League tie with NK Maribor. Hugo Lloris will start in goal, while Mousa Dembele (hip) and Scott Parker (Achilles) are also missing.
Maribor will be without defender Nejc Potokar and midfielder Rajko Rep through injury, while defender Jovan Vidovic is ineligible.
Flying in Europe this year and yet to concede a goal are Alan Pardew's Newcastle. The Magpies face Belgium's Club Brugge at St James' Park as they bid to maintain their lead at the top of Group D.
Newcastle signed off from Premier League action with a blood and thunder derby draw away at local rivals Sunderland. The Geordies made an excellent start at the Stadium Of Light but a red card to Cheick Tiote ultimately saw them play defensively in the second half, but were undone by a late Papiss Cisse Own Goal.
The betting for this one sees the hosts installed as 8/13 favourites in comparison to the 9/2 offered for Club Brugge. Despite not grabbing the headlines and the goals with as much potency as last season, Papiss Cisse still heads the first goalscorer market at 4/1 (EVS Anytime), mirroring the odds offered for his Senegalese strike partner Demba Ba.
Carlos Bacca's nine goals in eight games certainly ranks him as the visitors' greatest goal threat and perhaps a decent bet at 7/1 to break the deadlock and 2/1 to notch anytime.
Possibly the game of the night will take place at Anfield. Liverpool, slowly but surely building under Brendan Rodgers welcome the mega-rich Russian outfit Anzi Makhachkala attempting to get their Europa League campaign back on track, following a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Udinese.
There is no chance that Liverpool will rotate their squad for this game, as they have done in both previous group games, as they come up against players such as Eto'o, Traore and Zhirkov.
Russian sides have a tendency to not travel well in Europe but Anzhi have been on fire domestically, Guus Hiddink boasts a side that are top of the table and have won seven games in a row.
There is bad news on the injury front for Liverpool though as goalkeeper Jose Reina remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, meaning a Europa League call up for deputy Brad Jones. Liverpool medical staff are unsure whether Reina will recover in time for the weekend's Merseyside derby against Everton, but the Spaniard believes Jones, who kept a clean sheet against Reading on Saturday, is a capable replacement.
Anzhi will be without Lassana Diarra at Anfield but otherwise have a full complement of players to choose from.
Liverpool, five times European Cup winners, are 10/11 favourites in this clash while relative European newcomers Anzhi can be backed at 3/1.
Two of European football's true greats will face each other tonight when Steven Gerrard lines up against Samuel Eto'o. Gerrard's heroic exploits for Liverpool need almost single handedly won them the Champions League in 2005, while Eto'o, twice a Champions League winner with Barcelona and Inter, can boast a goal scoring pedigree that surpasses most of his peers and most in the history of the game. Stevie G is priced at 15/1 to open the scoring while you can back an Eto'o anytime goal in an Anzhi win at an enhanced price of 4/1.