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Nikos interview for the Evening Chronicle

Nikos interview for the Evening Chronicle

Newcastle United today started to make tentative arrangements for a daunting trip to Bosnia for their Champion's League third qualifying round first leg showdown.

Sarajevo's unheard of and unfancied Zeljeznicar beat Lillestrom 1-0 in their first leg in Norway last night.

And this obviously makes Zeljeznicar red hot favourites to entertain Sir Bobby Robson's side on August 13 or 14 and come to St James's Park on August 28.

But one person who was not surprised at Zeljeznicar's victory was United defender Nicos Dabizas, who is well aware of the strength of football in the country that was formerly part of Yugoslavia.

However the Greek international still believes that United will be too strong for Zeljeznicar and go through to the first group stage of the Champion's League.

Dabizas said today: "When we heard the result from Norway in our dressing room at Nottingham Forest last night everyone seemed surprised.

"But not me. I expected the team from Sarajevo to win even in Norway, and it's obvious that they will be fancying their chances with home advantage of going through to play us.

"I have spent most of my career coming up against players from the former Yugoslavia and we have always referred to them as the Brazilians of Europe.

"This is because they are so technically gifted and can play the ball around a bit.

"But they are not as competitive as players are in the Premiership and taking everything into account I think we will have too much for them.

"However, having said this it won't be easy, especially going out there to play the first leg."

I hear that neither Lillestrom or Zeljeznicar looked particularly impressive in front of the watching United contingent which included chief scout Charlie Woods, chief operating officer Russell Cushing and security chief Dave Pattison last night.

But Bobby Robson has been in the game long enough not to take anything for granted what is certain is that United's attitude will be spot-on in what will be a hostile environment should the Bosnians go through.

Cushing and Pattison flew straight from Oslo to Sarajevo today to make checks on hotel and training facilities in anticipation of Zeljeznicar going through in the second leg in Sarajevo on Wednesday night.

Evening Chronicle


232 Appearances in England (175 for Newcastle United, 18 for Leicester in the Premier League and 39 for Leicester in the Championship). Total League-Cup-Europe appearances 550. National Team appearances 70. Goals total 40.