Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has come out fighting against cynics who suggest that he is taking the Europa League lightly.
As Swiss outfit FC Basel visit Craven Cottage tonight, Hodgson is preparing to quash any belief that he sees this competition as an unwanted distraction from League action.
The manager is among the most experienced in English football and reached the final of this competition 12 years ago, when it was known as the UEFA Cup.
Back then he was in charge of Italian side Inter Milan and is offended by any suggestion that he is now ready to see his current side fall by the wayside after working so hard to qualify last season, when they finished seventh in the Premier League.
In the opening match of this European stage, Hodgson fielded a fringe side in order to rest key players and was delighted to see them emerge from CSKA Sofia with a point following a 1-1 draw.
This evening he is naming a more familiar line-up and wants Fulham fans to be assured that his focus has not already shifted towards a crucial fixture against West Ham on Sunday.
He said: “There is never a risk of us not wanting to win and certainly not a chance we will be playing two teams in this competition, which I know has been mooted by various people.
“It is nonsense to think we will use one side for the League and another for the cup. We did it in Sofia for a specific reason but for the next five games I’ll pick the best available team.
“This is probably a more prestigious and difficult trophy to win than it was in the days, 12 years ago, when I took part in the final with Inter.
“Back then it was purely a knock-out competition and it was just your luck along the way, who you happened to get.
“Now you know to get there you have to have won some pretty important games against some pretty big teams. It’s not just the luck of the draw.
“If you don’t believe that European football and playing against other European teams has any value then I’d be wasting my time. But I think it’s very worthwhile.”
Despite the fact he is ready to name a side similar to the one who were beaten 1-0 by Arsenal in a closely-fought encounter at the weekend, Hodgson will take the opportunity to rest Brede Hangeland this evening.
The Norwegian defender has been struggling with an ankle problem and although he will be able to face West Ham at the weekend, he has been excused from international duty next week in order to ensure the condition does not get any worse.
Hodgson said: “The idea is he will train with the team tomorrow and the medical team are confident that he’ll be fit.
“The Norwegian Football Association are aware of it and, like ourselves, they’re anxious he uses the two-week international period to get it cleared up. He has been hampered by it.”