Date: 26th September 2017 at 9:19am
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The Russian champions are having a difficult season ahead of their Champions League meeting with Liverpool…

Liverpool have arrived in Moscow for their Champions League group stage fixture with Spartak on Tuesday night.

Both sides drew their opening encounter in the competition – Liverpool at home to Sevilla and Spartak away to Maribor – making tonight’s match at the 45,360 capacity Otkrytie Arena in the north of the city a potentially crucial one in the final reckoning.

The hosts qualified for this year’s competition via their first Russian title in 16 years but the new campaign hasn’t come anywhere near to matching such achievements so far.

Spartak currently lie eighth after 11 games of the 2017/18 Russian Premier League – a sizeable 13 points behind pacesetters Zenit following a run of three wins, five draws and three defeats.

Four draws in the past five matches in all competitions have left certain sections of the club’s support calling for the head of manager Massimo Carrera.

The unheralded Italian, whose only previous experience of club management was as a caretaker at Juventus, was previously viewed as an unmitigated success story after ending Spartak’s long wait for a record 10th Russian championship. An accomplishment which expensive foreign predecessors such as Michael Laudrup and Unai Emery had failed to achieve.

Carerra will point to injuries as a mitigating factor with star man Quincy Promes, who has top-scored in each of the past two seasons and who was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool towards the end of 2016, again set to be missing on Tuesday night.

Captain Denis Glushakov and main striker Ze Luis are also doubts after missing Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Anzhi Makhachkala – a game which required a 92nd minute strike from Paraguayan winger Lorenzo Melgarejo to rescue a point.

Of course Liverpool haven’t been without problems of their own this season but they arrive in good spirits after ending a run of four matches without a win in all competitions against Leicester City at the weekend.

The Merseysiders are also buoyed by the availability of key attacker Sadio Mané after his three-match domestic ban.

Other than continued injury absentees Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne, plus youngster Joe Gomez through suspension, manager Jürgen Klopp has a full squad to choose from.

The four previous meetings between Liverpool and Spartak have been shared with two wins apiece. The most recent was back in 2002 when a Michael Owen hat-trick inspired the Reds to a 3-1 win in Moscow.

The match will be broadcast live in the UK on BT Sport 2. Kick-off is at 7.45pm BST.

Liverpool squad: Karius, Mignolet, Ward, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno, Robertson, Matip, Flanagan, Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Milner, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Can, Firmino, Coutinho, Salah, Sturridge, Mané, Solanke.

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