Fulham defender Brede Hangeland is expecting Fulham’s UEFA Europa League play-off encounter against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to be the Cottagers’ biggest examination yet, as Martin Jol’s side bid to progress to the competition’s first group stage.

The highly-rated Ukranian side, now managed by former Tottenham boss Juande Ramos, boast a wealth of European experience having qualified for the formerly named UEFA Cup group stages in 2003, ’04 and ’05.

“We expect it to be the toughest tie yet,” Hangeland told fulhamfc.com. “But that’s what you have to expect the closer you get to the group stage – from which we are now just two games away from.

“Of course, we want to do well in the Europa League and we want to make sure that coming back so early hasn’t been for nothing because this is a competition that we all have good memories from.

“There’s already been a fair bit of football, but we’ve needed to get through these early rounds in order to give it another good go.”

Hangeland has been impressed with the way his teammates have come back early for pre-season and knuckled down without complaint, and hopes that the Whites will be rewarded for their unwavering commitment by overcoming the final hurdle to make it through to the first round proper.

“RNK Split were a good side and we should give them credit – they played some decent football,” he reflected. “They caused us a few problems in the first leg and at times did the same in the second.

“It’s been very enjoyable so far and to go out now, when we are this close to the group stage would be devastating. So, as we always do, we’ll take each game as it comes and give it our best.”