Fulham manager Roy Hodgson insists his side’s slow start to the Premier League season should be no cause for alarm.
The Cottagers lie just one place above the relegation zone following a disappointing start which has seen them pick up only two wins – against Everton and bottom side Portsmouth.
Hodgson will be looking to improve his side’s fortunes when he takes them to West Ham for his third London derby of the season on Sunday.
The Hammers will leapfrog Fulham out of the relegation zone if they win, they also having started the season poorly.
Relegation fears gripped Craven Cottage this time last year when Fulham could only muster six points from their first six games.
Hodgson’s team managed to recover and qualify for the Europa League, however, and the 62-year-old believes both his side and West Ham can turn things around and survive the drop.
“I have great confidence within ourselves that over the course of 38 games we will get the points necessary,” Hodgson said.
“I am also confident that West Ham will get the points necessary so I think I’ll save my worries about six pointers until we get to the 25 or 28 game mark rather than the seven game mark.”
Danny Murphy’s strike ensured Fulham moved to the top of Europa League Group B with a 1-0 win over FC Basle on Thursday night.
Hodgson will welcome back John Pantsil, Aaron Hughes, Dickson Etuhu and Brede Hangeland, who was carrying a knee injury, to his starting line up for Sunday’s match.
The Fulham boss began the season by using weakened sides in Europe but started last night’s game with the majority of his first team.
He is confident the Cottagers are learning to cope with the demands of European football and believes playing in the competition is aiding his side’s development, rather than hindering it.
“We are pleased with how it is going,” the former Inter Milan manager said.
“We knew that this period would impact to a certain extent on our Premier League form and we have had to learn with these situations where we are playing a lot more football and people are being thrown into more games.
“If we can come through it as one of the top two teams in the group, that will make us a lot stronger come January and that might be a time when we need to come strong because that might be the time when the league starts to take shape.”
Hodgson singled out commanding centre half Chris Smalling for praise following last night’s win.
“He is maturing all the time,” Hodgson said of the 19-year-old.
“I thought his performance against CSKA Sofia was very good. His performance against Manchester City was even more worthy of praise because he was playing against (Carlos) Tevez and (Craig) Bellamy and again he played very well against a very good Basle team.
“We have the centre-half pairing of Hangeland and Hughes but it was very nice to see how we have admirable back up in Chris Baird and Chris Smalling, both of whom had very good games (against Basle).”