These are glorious ties for our football club. Looming large are two gigantic fixtures, two fixtures that will either make or break our season with such luminaries as Tottenham Hotspur and Juventus standing between ourselves and potential greatness.
The first of these, this Saturday with a late afternoon kick-off, will witness Fulham Football Club take on Spurs in a FA Cup quarter-final tie, our second in consecutive seasons. Spurs, a side with a fine cup pedigree, will be hoping that they can do the same as Manchester United did last season and sweep us aside, but we know better don`t we as Wembley beckons and possibly a first visit to Wembley since 1975, a gap of thirty five long years.
Spurs, the most successful club left in the FA Cup, with 8 competition victories will be looking to secure a semi-final place for the first time since 2001,
It`s something we`ve gone on about all week, the possibility that it could be an ex-Spur that sinks their former club and pushes us on to Wembley, Michael Dawson has picked up on such a thread, in the pre-match build up and has remarked,
‘Simon Davies was at Tottenham when I first came to the club, and Murph [Danny Murphy] was here as well. I’ve played with Bobby [Zamora] at England Under-21 level but not when he was at Tottenham. They’re good players and we know they’re a good team.”
‘Bobby’s definitely one of the in-form strikers in the Premier League at the moment.”
“Whenever you play against him you know it’s going to be a tough. He’s certainly on fire at the moment, scoring some good goals.
‘I think you look at the way he holds the ball up, his goal scoring, he’s a top player. You come up against so many of them in the Premier League so it’s going to be another good test.’
It sure will!
Fulham Team News:
Roy Hodgson takes his squad into our date with destiny on the back of a fantastic run that saw Fulham go unbeaten throughout the month of February, a fine achievement. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the squad is still a little stretched with the influential trio of Clint Dempsey, Andrew Johnson and John Pantsil all sidelined long term.
We believe that Nicky Shorey, our recent signing from Aston Villa is cup tied so Roy will be hoping to that another injury victim, Paul Konchesky, will have recovered sufficiently to slot into the left back role, if not then Stephen Kelly will be the man to fill the breach.
Danny Murphy, who received a straight red card on our European adventure, remains available with the suspension only applicable to Europa League fixtures.
Therefore, we expect Fulham to line up as follows:-
Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Kelly, Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies, Gera and Zamora,
Player to watch: Dickson Etuhu
Quietly, but very efficiently, Dickson has started to show just what he brings to team. Anchoring the midfield he produced a special performance against Shakthar Donetsk stifling their forward progression and something similar will be needed to halt a Spurs side that are pretty decent going forward.
Spurs Team News:
Harry Redknapp has injury problems but still has an expansive squad to choose from. Definitely out are Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, David Bentley and the unfortunate Carlo Cudicini whilst not even Spurs fans know if Ledley King will be fit enough after climbing out of bed on a match day!
But Spurs do remain a clear threat and with Peter Crouch in the limelight, after scoring twice for England, Harry Redknapp may well opt to play Crouch alongside Jermain Defoe with the Russian lad on the bench.
In midfield, Luca Modric will be the danger man, lively, energetic and with an eye for a precision pass, he could be the one to destroy our dreams.
Player to watch: Jermain Defoe
Is probably considered by Fabio Capello as the natural choice to partner Wayne Rooney on the international stage. Defoe is a clinical finisher with a dangerous turn of pace. He`ll be looking for Luca Modric to thread the ball through a tight defence for him to capitalize on, be warned Aaron and Brede! Although rumours are filtering our way that Defoe is struggling with a hamstring injury, this just gets better and better doesn`t it?
Match Facts & Stats
If Fulham are to secure a Wembley date they`ll have to make history. On the four previous occasions the two sides have been paired together it is Spurs that hold the upper hand having won each of those ties although one did go to a replay.
The league encounter between the two sides, at Craven Cottage, finished 0-0 but Fulham can look back to 15th November 2008 when Spurs were beaten 2-1.
Spurs also boast a win over us at White Hart Lane recently!
Mark Clattenburg will be the man in charge aided and abetted by his assistants Peter Kirkup and Michael Murphy and his fourth official, Kevin Friend.
Positivity is a remarkable power. It`s interesting to see, from posts left on previous articles by both camps, that both camps view progression into the semi-finals as inevitable for their side. After going through the whole of February unbeaten can Fulham sustain that run or will our first fixture, in March, see a dream come tumbling down around our ears? Will our opponents` quest for a top four finish affect their mind-set; is the Champions League the new agenda for Spurs or do they still yearn for another FA Cup Final experience? It`s all set for a fascinating encounter, one that could go either way, but, as I said earlier, positive thinking is half the battle and I have this feeling that inner, self belief, our squad has displayed in recent weeks will see us edge home at Craven Cottage. Let`s hope I`m right!
It`s a trip to Turin this Thursday to take on the might of Juventus in the last sixteen of the Europa League, things don`t get any better than this do they?