Aeroflot recently completed a sponsorship deal with Manchester United, but they may wish to consider expanding their reach after Tottenham, Swansea and Wigan were all handed Russian opponents in the Europa League draw.
Wigan Athletic, the FA Cup winners, will make a long trip to Rubin Kazan, who defeated Barcelona a few years ago, in central Russia. Swansea travel towards the Black Sea to face European newcomers Kuban Krasnodar. Spurs face Anzhi Makhachkala, no longer the force they were, having sold off most of their team including Willian, who was destined for White Hart Lane before Chelsea intervened.
Swansea also have Valencia and Swiss side St Gallen in their group. With a quartet of ex-La Liga players, including former Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez, the atmospheric Mestalla should hold no fears for Michael Laudrup’s team. Valencia have been hit by Spain’s economic woes but have players of the calibre of Adil Rami, Ever Banega and, on loan from Chelsea, Oriol Romeu.
Kuban were involved in a controversial incident in 2011 when Montenegrin forward Nikola Nikezic alleged he was beaten up in the club’s offices until he agreed to cancel his contract. The club were ordered to pay him €180,000 (£155,000). The group is completed by the Slovenian champions Maribor and Zulte Waregem of Belgium.
Since the money tap was turned off, Anzhi have collapsed. As well as Willian, Samuel Eto’o, Chris Samba, Yuri Zhirkov and Igor Denisov have been sold and in the Russian league they have two points from six matches. Spurs also meet perennial Moldovan title-winners Sheriff Tiraspol and Norwegian club Tromso, whose ground is in the Arctic Circle, and who were readmitted after Besiktas were thrown out for match-fixing.
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