Roy Hodgson has suggested in his latest chat with the offal that Fulham will field close to a full-strength side for Thursday’s Europa League game against FC Basel.
Hodgson had picked a largely second-string and inexperienced side for Fulham’s first game in the group stages against CSKA Sofia but insists that this was part of a longer-term development strategy than an indication of his attitude towards the competition. The Fulham manager argues that the game – and the one that followed shortly afterwards, at Manchester City in the League Cup – offered a perfect opportunity to test some aspiring first-teamers at a high level.
There’s no reason why players can’t play three games a week. We were a little bit anxious not to push the players into action before it was necessary.
It was also very important for me to have a couple of games at a very high level – Sofia and Manchester City away – to see how good Smalling, Chris Baird, Greening, Riise and others are playing. I needed to know because how else would I make a decision to change players without knowing at what level the alternatives are at?
The CSKA Sofia game came on the back of the international week so players like Hughes, Hangeland and Dempsey, to name a few, had made long journeys and played two games. So it was probably quite sensible not to give them another three-game week.
With Damien Duff apparently likely to miss three weeks with a calf injury, Zoltan Gera did his case to replace the Irish winger no harm with an impressive performance against Arsenal at the weekend. That could be the only change from Saturday’s line-up unless Roy decides to rotate things to a greater degree.