Deportivo lie in wait for Souness' men

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Not only are they in line to face the Spanish La Liga side Deportivo La Coruña in the semi-finals of the Intertoto Cup, but Lazio or Marseilles would then await in the final.

Monday's draw for the semi-finals mapped out the Magpies' route into the Uefa Cup. Their opening European game of the season, the first leg of their third-round tie against the Slovakian side FK ZTS Dubnica, takes place on Sunday.

The winners of that tie advance to play either Deportivo or the Croatian side MK Slaven Koprivnica.

The Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness, might be relieved his side avoided the likes of Valencia, Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund and Lens at the draw in Nyon. But he could hardly have been presented with a tougher proposition and refused to look too far ahead.

"I am not thinking beyond the first game in Slovakia on Sunday because it would be wrong to do so," Souness said. "I have been in football long enough to know that the minute you start taking your eye off the ball, you can be punished. There are no easy games in football and our only focus must be the Dubnica game.

"In the normal run of things, we would be seen as obvious favourites to win, but they are four weeks ahead of us in terms of fitness levels which is an advantage for them. We must concentrate on the job in hand and not start talking about who we might or might not play in later rounds - let's just try to get through this tie first, that has to be my take on things."

Monday's draw means that Newcastle have an even harder task to reach the first round of the Uefa Cup - the prize for the winners of the finals - than they did in the summer of 2001.

The consolation that year, after going out on away goals in an eight-goal thriller at St James' Park against the French club Troyes, was that the early start had them in good shape for the start of the Premiership, and they maintained the momentum to finish fourth and reach the Champions' League.

However, two men who had a significant impact after joining that summer - Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert - have left the clubafter falling out with Souness.

The Scot is rebuilding his squad, although he said some time ago that his only new signing to date, Scott Parker, will not play against Dubnica. And he has indicated that any further newcomers will not feature in the Intertoto Cup, although the difficulty of the coming tests may prompt a rethink.

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