We’re inching ever closer to kick off in Turin by the second. People will call this Fulham’s biggest game but for me that’s overegging it a little bit. I can think of a few massive games Fulham played at the other end of the spectrum when we clinging on for dear life. Not just to our place in the league pyramid but to our ground and our future as a football club. That’s why you have to enjoy nights like this evening.
There’s one thing you can be sure of: Roy Hodgson will have a plan. Still highly regarded in Italy, especially for his achievements with Internazionale, the Fulham manager is a man schooled in the art of defensive discipline, something the Italians prize over style. Fulham’s first objective tonight will be trying to stop some of the real talent in the Juventus line-up running riot. Alberto Zaccheroni might be without some stellar names due to injury and suspension this evening but there’s still plenty of quality in his side.
Diego will be up for scoring in front of his own supporters and the Brazilian, who reached the final of the UEFA Cup with Werder Bremen last season, will put the tie out of sight long before we reach Craven Cottage next week if he isn’t shackled early. Then there’s the classy Candreva who came on and turned a game that looked to ebbing away from Juve at the weekend. Those two will probably operate behind a lone striker and combative midfield play will be the order of the day.
This is where I’ll be a lot happier with the Etuhu-Greening axis. Plenty of people felt we weren’t progressive enough with the ball against Spurs in the FA Cup and I highlighted how poor Dickson’s distribution was. People rightly responded reminding me that isn’t his role but to me even an anchor midfielder should be able to pick a pass. Etuhu assures us there’s better ahead – let’s hope he’s ready to go to war tonight.
Greening will be a more conservative replacement for Murphy and, in a match like this, were you have to guard against being blown away by the home side, that’s okay. Much will depend on the wide players and how Gera and Zamora interlink.
Just thinking about it makes you want to wish those minutes away.
MY FULHAM XI (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Kelly, Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Greening, Davies, Duff; Gera; Zamora. Subs: Zuberbuhler, Smalling, Konchesky, Riise, Marsh-Brown, Elm, Nevland.