By Russell Stoddart
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge hopes that the club's players will not be targeted by Zenit St Peterburg's racist fans who have called on their club not sign black or gay players.
The Reds will visit St Petersburg on March 7 for the first leg of their Europa League last 32 clash, and face fears over a hostile reaction from the home supporters.
Aldridge told Goal.com that he is optimistic that European football's governing body will have addressed the situation in time for the game, but believes that any febrile atmosphere will serve to spur the Liverpool players on.
"There are a couple of months before Liverpool travel to Russia and I hope that Uefa have the problem sorted out before then," he said.
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"I'm sure that whoever pulls on a Liverpool shirt will cope with any hostility and use it as motivation to do well."
The Anfield legend also paid tribute to the number of fans who followed their club all the way to Moscow for the group game against Anzhi, and expects a similar turnout for the Zenit clash.
"St Petersburg is a long trip but it won't put off the fans. They took 2000 to Moscow in November for the game against Anzhi Makhachkala. That was a remarkable turnout," he added.
Although Aldridge expects the Russian champions to prove stern opposition, he believes that the prestige surrounding Liverpool makes them one of the biggest draws in the competition.
"It is a tough draw because Russian teams have a few bob and are spending it on proven quality players. It will be a tough game," he continued.
"Liverpool are at the top of the pecking order in this competition and it will be a big scalp for Zenit if they can beat the five-times Champions League/European Cup winners.
"Brendan Rodgers will want to win this competition because that first trophy as manager is always the most difficult and he knows that they can win it. Liverpool are used to winning trophies over the past 40 years because they take every tournament seriously."