Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Toon Facing a Hell of a Europa League Trip

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Toon Facing a Hell of a Europa League Trip

Article excerpt

NEWCASTLE'S reward for a stunning Europa League victory in the Ukraine is a trip to meet the team from hell.

United must travel into the unknown on Thursday night for a last-16 confrontation with the mighty Anzhi Makhachkala.

Who? Yeah, exactly.

Anzhi were only formed in 1991 and cannot draw flies in comparison to Europe's giant clubs of deep history.

You cannot get out there without the determination of an intrepid explorer - and the brave heart of a lion - and as for their pulling power as visitors they have none.

The whole set-up is so crazy the team train in a small village outside Moscow and fly to their home ground 1,000 miles away in the Republic of Dagestan on match days, where they need a heavy security guard it is so dangerous.

Thankfully, Newcastle are being spared any thoughts of gun-toting outriders with Anzhi's Euro excursion being switched to the Russian captial.

Needless to say, a club with such liabilities has to be superrich to make any impression and they are in a way despised by ordinary football fans.

They buy their success, much like Chelsea and Manchester City, through a billionaire owner who imports mercenaries looking to line their pockets more than boost their international status.

However, even Mr Moneybags could not persuade footballing gypsies to reside in Dagestan - where armed conflict abounds - so he allows them to escape to Moscow to live in their luxury apartments.

Those who have taken the buck and therefore will face Newcastle on Thursday begin with head coach Guus Hiddink, who won the FA Cup in 2009 during a fleeting stay at Chelsea, and their 'team director' Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian World Cup winner who first played for Anzhi and liked the set up so much (financially?) he stayed on once retired.

Samuel Eto'o, a one-time silky smooth striker with Barcelona, is their marquee name, of course, but they also have on their player roster two former Chelsea midfielders Lassana Diarra and Yuri Zhirkov. …

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