Former Blackburn defender Chris Samba returns to England hoping Anzhi Makhachkala can continue run of form against Liverpool

 

Christopher Samba makes a return to England tonight with the former Blackburn Rovers defender lining up with new club Anzhi Makhachkala at Anfield to play Liverpool in the Europa League.

Having left Ewood Park in January for a fee of £12.3m, Samba has made the 1,600 mile flight from Moscow to Merseyside to play in England for the first time since his departure.

There'll be no fears of jetlag, despite the long journey, as Anzhi are used to travelling long distances to home games. Players live and train in the Russian capital Moscow as Makhachkala, based in the Republic of Dagestan, is deemed too dangerous.

Despite these obvious concerns, Samba is enjoying life in Russia and appreciates the fans' commitment to the team.

"The people who live in Makhachkala have a warm heart, they come to the stadium and give their support and are behind us. They watch us for the joy we can bring them. We are not in Makhachkala a lot of the time but we enjoy the time we do spend there. The weather in Russia is a bit colder than in England but it's going great."

Despite the trouble which goes on daily in the city of Makhachkala, located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, a plethora of football superstars have been persuaded to turn out for the 'Wild Division' as Anzhi's fans are nicknamed.

Bankrolled by successful Russian businessman Suleyman Kerimov and currently managed by Guus Hiddink, the club first persuaded Brazil legend Roberto Carlos to join the club in 2011. It was a real coup and many other big names followed including Mbark Boussoufa, Yuri Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra.

The biggest star to join Kerimov's revolution is former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o, a player Samba describes as "the best".

"For me, he is the best striker. To play with him is great and even though he is a little older, you can see why he is one of the best strikers. It is good to play with him and see the things he does."

Anzhi, who usually play at the Dynamo Stadium, have been forced by Uefa to play their European home games at Lokomotiv Moscow's stadium due to safety fears. Kerimov intends to add to his empire however, with plans to build a brand new 40,000-seater stadium which the club hopes will meet all Uefa requirements.

"The chairman sees the team, he is behind us. He comes to the games, he enjoys the games. He really is a part of what he has built" says Samba of the clubs' owner.

Founded in 1991, Anzhi are rubbing shoulders with the Russian Premier League big boys. Remaining at the top of the table after a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Spartak Moscow last Saturday, Samba hopes the team can maintain their excellent form.

"We hope to stay where we are (top of the league). We have a lot of clubs that are behind us; CSKA, Spartak, Zenit. A lot of these clubs invest a lot in players too. It will not be easy but we try to take one game at a time and try to do the best we can in every competition."

Having landed in Liverpool on Wednesday, Anzhi held a special commemoration ceremony for the Hillsborough victims at the memorial site at Anfield. A great gesture by the club and Samba is looking forward to tonight's showdown.

"It will be a good game. You have to do your best and hope for the best result."

The former Hertha Berlin man spent five years in the Premier League with Blackburn and knows exactly what to expect when facing English opposition. Whilst he has given some tips to players he believes his team-mates will focus on their own game.

"We have to concentrate on what we have to do and the way we play. With some players you can give them a bit of an education but everybody knows Liverpool, everybody knows they are a big team" said the French-born centre-back.

Russian football is growing every year, however, racism casts a shadow over the game. English football fans were shocked and appalled by events in Serbia last week when several of the England Under-21 squad were racially abused by sections of the home support. Samba too, has experienced the same kind of mistreatment since moving to Eastern Europe. During a game against Lokomotiv Moscow, just a month into Samba's Anzhi career, a member of the crowd allegedly threw a banana in the defender's direction.

Samba believes that the best way to combat discrimination is to educate and make supporters aware that it is not acceptable.

"We need to educate people. You can punish them but you also need to make people understand about colour, that people are different. People shouldn't be judged or hated just on the colour of their skin. I think it's a little bit silly."

Meanwhile, the ex-Blackburn star has kept an eye on his former club and hopes the supporters continue to back the club despite the sides' relegation last year under the much publicised stewardship of recently sacked coach Steve Kean.

"It's been a tough time. The power is the people. It's difficult if the fans don't believe in you and what you are trying to do for the club. There is a lot of pressure through the adversity. At the end of the day, it's all about the results. The fans have to believe in the manager and team and fight with instead of against the manager. It's already difficult to fight against the position you are in."

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice