Europa League Preview:
So just what can Liverpool expect on their forthcoming European adventure?...
Liverpool have been drawn in Group A of this years’ Europa League competition alongside; Udinese of Italy, FC Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia and BSC Young Boys of Switzerland in a group that quite frankly wouldn’t look out of place in the Champions League.
Indeed if Liverpool are to progress through the group stage, they will need to beat some very decent teams, with journeys to Udine, Italy and especially war-torn Degestan, Russia looking harrowing to say the least.
Liverpool will resume their Europa League campaign on Thursday 20th September in Bern, Switzerland away to BSC Young Boys, and finish their Round 1 fixtures away to Udinese on Thursday 6th December.
So, what can we expect from each team?
BSC Young Boys:
Firstly, let’s get the dodgy name and any awful puns out of the way. BSC Young Boys play in the Swiss 1st Division and finished 3rd last season.
They’re managed by a guy by the name of Martin Rueda and play in the Stade de Rueda which holds a respectable 32,000. Notably, they play on an Astroturf pitch, which may cause a hindrance or two for our boys. They’re captained by goalkeeper Marco Wolfi, whilst their vice-captain is midfielder Mario Raimondi.
As you most likely know, Udinese are Italian and play their games in the historical city of Udine, situated in the North-East of Italy. They play in the Stadio Fruili, which holds 30,642. It’s a multi-purpose stadium with a running track so don’t expect a cauldron of atmosphere. Udinese are managed by Francesco Guidolin who has been managing mid-table Serie A and Serie B teams such as Genoa, Palermo and Bologna since the late eighties. Their star play is the effervescent striker Antonio Di Natale. Di Natale is 34 and has scored 135 goals iin 264 games since joining Udinese in 2004.
Last season Udinese finished 3rd in Serie A. However they were a penalty kick away from Champions League football this season, with new signing from Botafogo Maicosuel missing a very poor (Paneka chipped penalty) which cost the club upward of 20 million euro.
FC Anzhi Makhachkala:If you haven’t heard of Anzhi by now you must have been living under a rock! Fc Anzhi play in the war-torn city of Dagestan in Russia and most notably, they are loaded! Recently bought by Oligarch Suleyman Kerimov, their world, like that of Manchester City, has changed forever.
Three months after buying the relatively small club he made Samuel Eto’o an offer he simply could not refuse, a whopping €20 million annual salary making him the highest paid player the game has ever seen. Since the mammoth addition of Eto’o, Anzhi have bought Lassana Diarra and Zuri Zhirkov.
Not only have they bought some good players on crazy wages, but they have Brazilian Legend Roberto Carlos as their sporting director after he retired playing with them last season! Their manager isn’t bad either, a certain Mr Guus Hiddink!
For all their wealth, these stars play in an extremely poverty stricken city, it’s so bad that the players reside and train in Kratovo, a village near Moscow. The training base was previously used by Saturn Moscow Oblast for training sessions. The club fly in for home matches. This is for security reasons and entails, according to the BBC, "flying about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) 15 times a season" for the home games!