CHEIK Tiote will put his friendship with Ivorian countryman Lacina Traore on hold for 90 minutes at the Luzhniki Stadium tonight.
Tiote and Traore – who are Ivory Coast team-mates on the field – are also close friends off the pitch.
But Newcastle United midfielder Tiote is desperate to put one over the Anzhi Makhachkala striker when the two clubs meet in the Europa League’s Round of 16 in Moscow.
“He is my friend – we play together for the national team,” Tiote said.
“He’s a good player. But when you play against your friend, you want to win.
“I texted him and he told me they are going to win the game. I said ‘OK – we will see!’”
The return leg at St James’s Park will be played on March 14, and Tiote insists Newcastle didn’t travel to Russia looking for a draw ahead of that fixture.
With United having won 1-0 in the Ukraine against Metalist Kharkiv, the club is looking to put one foot in the quarter-finals.
“We’ll go there and try to win the game,” he said.
“For us, the Europa League is good. We play in Russia. If we get a good result there, it will help in the next game.”
Anzhi’s highest-profile player is another African – Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o, previously at Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan.
Tiote isn’t fazed by the prospect of facing the striker, African football’s most-decorated player and reportedly the world’s best-paid footballer.
“Samuel Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the world,” added the 26-year-old. “He is a top player, and it’s good for us to play him.”