Moscow - Hannover 96 venture into unchartered territory as they look to preserve their unbeaten record in this season's UEFA Europa League in Thursday's Round of 32 first-leg tie against FC Anji Makhachkala (kick-off 18:00 CET) .

The Reds have collected five points from a possible nine away from home in the competition so far this term, but their Russian counterparts, though new to the knockout stages, are yet to lose or even concede on home soil on the continent themselves.

Injury concerns


Hannover have often saved their best form for midweek but are under no illusions as to the magnitude of the task awaiting them in the Russian capital. "My fellow manager Guus Hiddink has absolutely fantastic players to choose from," stated Mirko Slomka. "Samuel Eto'o, Lassana Diarra and Yuri Zhirkov to name but a few. Anji represent a big challenge for us."

Slomka is still contending with a lengthy injury list which includes first-team regulars Lars Stindl, Steven Cherundolo, Felipe, Mario Eggimann and Leon Andreasen, but of most concern are the doubts surrounding Mame Diouf's fitness.

Eto'o a doubt


Anji, who haven't played a competitive fixture this year, could also be without their star striker. "Our physiotherapists are trying to work their magic on Eto'o," said head coach Hiddink, who is expected to hand winter signing Willian his debut on Thursday.

Though the chilly temperatures will be nothing new for last season's quarter-finalists, Hannover have been preparing their trip to Luzhniki Stadium by training on an artificial surface similar to that in Moscow. "The speed of the ball is far greater, so precision passing and control is a lot harder," explained Jan Schlaudraff on the club's official website. "We've got to try to get used to the surface as quickly as possible."