Eto'o and Samba to head to Anfield

Samuel Eto'o

Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool face a tough test in the group stage of this season's Europa League as they face Guus Hiddink's Anzhi Makhackala, a side which includes former Blackburn Rovers defender Christopher Samba and the four-time African Player of the Year, Samuel Eto'o.

We take a look at how the rest of Liverpool's group lines up and how the draw worked out for the two other English clubs involved, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in our Europa League preview...

Liverpool

Free-spending Anzhi Makhackala will provide a stern test for Liverpool in Group A with the toughest of the two games coming in the away fixture in Russia. As well as Eto'o and Samba, Anzhi also have former Chelsea wing-back Yuri Zhirkov in their ranks but it will be Cameroon striker Eto'o that the Reds will be most worried about - he has a knack for scoring against English clubs, after scoring against Arsenal and Manchester United in the 2006 and 2009 Champions League finals respectively and Chelsea at the quarter-final stage in 2010.

Liverpool also face Swiss side Young Boys of Berne who will be remembered for beating Tottenham 3-2 in the first leg of a Champions League playoff two seasons ago before losing 4-0 in the second. Completing the group is Italian outfit Udinese, who Arsenal overcame in the Champions League play-offs last year - it will be the first time the Reds have visited Udine and it will not be an easy trip after Udinese finished 3rd in Serie A last seson above the likes of both Inter Milan and Roma.

Newcastle United

Alan Pardew's side will face trips to France, Belgium and Portugal in Group D to face all three opponents for the first time in their history. Former manager Chris Houghton and his previous club Birmingham City will know all about Club Brugge after they drew them at the stage last season, beating them 2-1 in Belgium and drawing 2-2 at St. Andrews.

The Magpies also face Bordeaux whose squad includes former Manchester United striker David Bellion - the French side finished 5th in Ligue 1 last season. Newcastle's third opponents are the least-known in the group - Maritimo. United will expect to get 6 points of the Portuguese side but will take nothing for granted after they only just edged past Greek side Atromitos to qualify for the competition proper.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have been drawn in Group J and will face Panathinaikos of Greece, Serie A side Lazio and Maribor from Slovenia. The stand out fixture from this group will be Tottenham vs Lazio - both sides could have been competing in the Champions League after Spurs missed out as a result of Chelsea's success whilst the Italian side only missed out on Europe's top competition by two points as they finished fourth in Serie A behind Udinese.

Andre Villas-Boas will have to prepare his side for a tricky away to Greece to face Panathinaikos who have great experience of playing in European competition, and defeated the club last year. Completing the group are Slovenian champions Maribor. Maribor made it all the way to the Champions League play-off round before losing 3-1 on aggregate to Dinamo Zagreb.

Fans of Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham, what do you make of the draw and how far do you think your team can go?

image: © Jason Bagley

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