Winning away has proven quite a challenge for Fulham in the league for a while now, but Roy Hodgson seems to be able t0 hit on a formula that gives his side a chance in the vital one-off game. Our FA Cup runs of recent years have seen Fulham survive a few potential bannana skins away from home (think Sheffield Wednesday, Kettering, Swansea, Accrington Stanley) since we were rather unceremoniously dumped out of the competition on penalties at Bristol Rovers in Hodgson’s first season in charge. The conventional wisdom is that Fulham’s chance of reaching a Wembley semi-final went as soon as the final whistle went at Craven Cottage to end the first game, but our exploits against Juventus last week only served to remind everyone that this Fulham team specialises in the unexpected.
Tottenham, aiming for some silverware to go with their push for fourth place, are undoubtedly favourites for this game. Harry Redknapp’s side disposed of Fulham rather handily on our last trip to White Hart Lane and our recent record at Spurs has been nothing to write home about. Apart from a couple of draws, the only happy memories we have of the Lane are a Barry Hayles-inspired victory on a sunkissed afternoon at the start of Chris Coleman’s reign that pushed Glenn Hoddle closer to the exit.
Harry Redknapp’s got a few injury problems to contend with but Tottenham’s squad has such depth that he should be able to field a side that will test just how fresh Fulham are after a hectic recent schedule. Jermain Defoe, scorer of five FA Cup goals this season, is a big miss for Spurs up front, especially with Roman Pavlyuchenko, who has been in fine form of late, rumoured to be touch and go as well. Redknapp can call on Eidur Gudjohnsen, who deputised for Defoe to great effect at Stoke at the weekend, as an able replacement and England international Peter Crouch will need to be watched carefully too.
Redknapp will recall Wilson Palacios, rested at the Britannia as he was on nine bookings, to the centre of midfield as Younes Kaboul is cup-tied and Tottenham will hope to receive further boosts this afternoon when assessing the fitness of David Bentley and Danny Rose. Redknapp is hopeful that both will be passed fit to play this evening. Spurs have been in excellent form recently: they have gone seven games unbeaten, have won their last three at home and haven’t been beaten in ten matches at White Hart Lane.
Fulham, who are nervously waiting on the fitness of Brede Hangeland, will have to make some history if they are to reach the semi-finals tonight. In four previous FA Cup ties against Tottenham, the Cottagers have failed to progress – and this is only the second time that a replay has been necessary. You have to go back to the fourth round and Accrington – in January – for the last time Fulham won away and tonight’s opposition are of a different calibre altogether.
Hodgson has at least rotated his squad with this game in mind. Hangeland’s recovery from the chest injury he suffered at Old Trafford – and played through against Juventus last Thursday – would obviously be a massive lift, as you get the sense that the Manchester United-bound Chris Smalling is still far from the finished article. He does have a choice of left backs in good form. Paul Konchesky has played the last two fixtures, despite Nicky Shorey’s impressive start to his loan spell at Craven Cottage.
Perhaps the most interesting poser will be whether Clint Dempsey starts in midfield. The American’s inclusion would probably be at the expense of Simon Davies, who – like a few others in the Fulham side tonight – would quite like to prove a point against one of his former clubs. Dempsey memorably came off the bench to secure Fulham’s place in the last eight of the Europa League with that magnificent chip against Juventus, but – having just recovered from a serious knee injury – he might have to settle for a spot on the bench again tonight.
MY FULHAM XI (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Shorey, Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Murphy, Duff, Dempsey; Gera; Zamora. Subs: Zuberbuhler, Smalling, Greening, Davies, Riise, Nevland, Okaka.