Europa League Preview: Fulham - Juventus

Posted Friday, March 19, 2010 by Goal.com

Cottagers prepare to welcome illustrious visitors…

Kick-Off: Thursday, March 18 18:00.
Craven Cottage, London.

Juventus go into the second leg of this Europa League last 16 tie as overwhelming favourites to progress into the quarter-finals at the expense of Fulham.

The Serie A giants won the first leg 3-1 in Turin, and while that result does not completely put the result beyond doubt, it is a commanding advantage.

It has been a miserable season for Juve, who are already operating under their second coach of the campaign after a season which has seen them unable to challenge for the Scudetto and crash out of the Champions League in the group stages.

Alberto Zaccheroni is attempting to salvage a top four finish and Europa League silverware from the campaign and the side have made some progress under his stewardship.

However, the Old Lady remain extremely vulnerable, as was shown by their home clash against Serie A’s bottom club, Siena, at the weekend. After racing into a 3-0 lead within ten minutes, Juve threw away their control of the game and drew 3-3.

That, combined with a number of injuries to key players going into the game, gives Fulham some hope of turning the tie on its head and continuing their European adventure, especially considering their strength at home.

Roy Hodgson’s side have already surpassed expectations by just reaching the Europa League having been Premier League relegation candidates 18 months ago.

The fact they have reached the last 16 of the competition, ousted the holders Shakhtar Donetsk in the last round and had the chance to face Juventus means it has been an unforgettable campaign for their supporters.

Victory in this tie would take things to a whole new level, but the Cottagers are outsiders.

FORM GUIDE

Fulham

Mar 14: Manchester United 3-0 Fulham (Premier League)
Mar 11: Juventus 3-1 Fulham (Europa League)
Mar 06: Fulham 0-0 Tottenham (FA Cup)
Feb 28: Sunderland 0-0 Fulham (Premier League)
Feb 25: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Fulham (Europa League)

Juventus

Mar 14: Juventus 3-3 Siena (Serie A)
Mar 11: Juventus 3-1 Fulham (Europa League)
Mar 07: Fiorentina 1-2 Juventus (Serie A)
Feb 28: Juventus 0-2 Palermo (Serie A)
Feb 25: Juventus 0-0 Ajax (Europa League)

TEAM NEWS

Fulham

Key defender Brede Hangeland (chest) will be handed a late fitness test to see whether he will be able to play.

If the Norway centre-back fails, he will have to join Andy Johnson and John Pantsil (both knee) on the sidelines, while Danny Murphy and Jonathan Greening both miss the tie through suspension.

David Elm and Bjorn Helge Riise have both been unwell this week and will be assessed close to kick-off.

Possible starting XI (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Dempsey, Baird, Etuhu, Duff, Gera, Zamora.

Juventus

Juventus coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be without a large proportion of his first-team squad for the trip to London.

Goalkeepers Gianluigi Buffon and Alex Manninger are both out, so 39-year-old Antonio Chimenti continues to deputise, with two goalkeepers from the youth set-up serving as back up.

Elsewhere, Martin Caceres, Giorgio Chiellini, Sebastian Giovinco, Michele Paolucci and Amauri are all out through injury, while Nicola Legrottaglie is suspended.

Possible starting XI (4-4-2): Chimenti, Grygera, Cannavaro, Zebina, De Ceglie, Melo, Marchisio, Sissoko, Diego, Del Piero, Trezeguet.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Fulham – Bobby Zamora

Bobby Zamora has declared that his side can reverse the two-goal deficit from Turin, and if Fulham are to do that the powerful striker will have to be on top of his game. Zamora is still an inconsistent performer, but on his day he is capable of making an impact and he will be hopeful of doing just that against a makeshift Juve defence.

Juventus – Alessandro Del Piero

Fulham fans will be relishing the opportunity to see star players such as Alessandro Del Piero at close quarters at Craven Cottage on Thursday. The legendary Italian forward is still a key part of the Juve line-up, and is the club’s joint top goal-scorer having scored eight goals from 19 appearances in an injury interrupted season, including two at the weekend against Siena.

PREDICTION

Fulham have more than held their own in the Europa League this season and have shown they are capable of competing with anyone at Craven Cottage.

Juventus are eager to win the whole competition to gain some consolation from a desperately disappointing campaign both at home and on the continent.

It should be a memorable night for the west London club, Roy Hodgson and his players, but it is hard to see them pulling off a turnaround that would make the whole of Europe sit up and take notice.

Fulham 1-1 Juventus

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