Fulham are in the Faroe Islands tonight aiming to see off NSI Runavik and set up a second qualifying round tie with Crusaders next week.
Having played as close to a full-strength side in the first leg, Martin Jol is expected to rotate his squad with Fulham comfortably ahead on aggregate. Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Carlos Salcido are still available and the Whites will have to do without midfielder Simon Davies, who has been ruled out with a knee injury. Captain Danny Murphy has also been rested for the second leg and is likely to be replaced by either Steve Sidwell or Jonathan Greening.
Jol may also be keen to test some of the club’s young talent, having already handed Lauri Dalla Valle a debut in the first leg. The former Liverpool striker is expected to be on the bench again, probably alongside the likes of Kerim Frei and Alex Smith who have also made the trip to Toftir. Chris Baird, who is excited by the prospect of a return to his homeland to play Crusaders in the next round, has been offering his thoughts on playing in the Faroes. He and Aaron Hughes were part of a Northern Ireland side held to a 1-1 by the minnows a couple of years ago:
It’s up on a big hill — it’s windy, cold — not the best facilities. But we have to go there and do the job.
You have to treat every team with respect, no matter who they are. It’s down to us at the end of the day. We know that we’re the better team, with great experience and good players.
It’s down to us. We know that we’re the better team, with great experience and good players. It’s nice to see these different places, obviously I’ve been there before, so I know what to expect. I’m sure for other players it will be an eye-opener because there’s not a lot there and not a lot to do.
Exactly what type of game we’ll see in under an hour’s time depends on how Runavik look to approach the second leg. They were disciplined and determined at Craven Cottage a week ago, but operating under a damage limitation strategy. Now that a move to an artificial surface – rumoured earlier in the day before the stadium passed a mid-afternoon pitch inspection – has been averted, any advantage for the home side has been nullified. Whatever side Jol picks, Fulham’s class should show through. But with such a short turnaround between the first and second rounds, he’ll be hoping his squad comes through this test unscathed.
MY FULHAM XI (4-4-2): Stockdale; Kelly, Briggs, Hughes, Senderos; Etuhu, Sidwell, Riise, Greening; Zamora, A. Johnson. Subs: Schwarzer, Hangeland, Baird, Smith, Frei, Duff, Dalla Valle.