Downing's side face Tottenham and West Ham in the coming days as they spend much of the next week in London.
The stand-in head coach knows his squad will be stretched by the busy schedule and wants every member to play their part.
Much has been made of Anelka's lack of impact since arriving as a free agent in the summer, with the striker yet to score for the Baggies and out of action since October following a groin problem.
With Matej Vydra breaking his duck in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Hull, the French veteran faces the prospect of sliding further down the pecking order.
However, Downing is adamant Anelka is by no means a lost cause yet.
"He's preparing for the two games and bearing in mind he's nearer the end of his career, in his mid-thirties, you've got to respect that," he said.
"We're doing that and he'll have some sort of important part to play in the next couple of games."
"I'm pleased for Matej Vydra because he's been here a while and people have forgotten him a little bit. I'm pleased because he's a good type, a good professional who works hard at his game.
"He's in a good vein of form at the moment. He's come on and scored the goal, made some impact in previous games. When someone scores a goal their confidence is high so you've got to consider him for a start at Spurs."
Vydra's equaliser against the Tigers was created by fellow substitute Zoltan Gera, with the crowd favourite returning from a long-standing knee injury recently.
"I'm pleased for Zoltan too because he's had a long time out with his knee again and he's such an important person around the place," Downing added.
"He's a great influence on young pros. I'm pleased that he's come back and made an impact."
Downing is happy to continue in his role until chairman Jeremy Peace and technical director Richard Garlick appoint a new permanent head coach in their own time.
"I've been given no indication whatsoever about timing," he said. "I got a thank you and a well done from the chairman after the Hull match and a 'keep it going', but that's as much as I've got.
"I don't really want to know, to be honest, because I've got to focus on what I've got to do and that's the most important thing for me. I think if I get distracted by what's going on elsewhere, I'm not doing my job."