Europe not a distraction for Fulham says Hodgson

Roy Hodgson has denied the Europa League is a distraction as the Fulham boss prepares to alter his selection policy for tomorrow's clash with Basle.

The Cottagers named a weakened side for their Group E opener against CSKA Sofia but still left the Bulgarian capital with a creditable 1-1 draw.

Damien Duff, David Stockdale, Dickson Etuhu, Simon Davies and Brede Hangeland will miss the Basle showdown through injury, but otherwise Hodgson plans to name a strong line-up.

The 62-year-old insists Fulham take their European commitments seriously and is adamant his squad can cope with the tournament alongside the Barclays Premier League.

West Ham at Upton Park on Sunday is the club's next domestic assignment, but halting a three-match losing streak tomorrow is the priority.

"You shouldn't regard the Europa League as a distraction," he said.

"If you don't want distractions then you should refuse the offer to qualify for Europe even if you qualified to do so.

"There was never any question of us doing that. We tried to finish as high as we could in the Premier League last season and ended up getting a European place.

"We certainly don't see Europe as a distraction, we regard it as an interesting adventure.

"It's a test for the squad but we're strong enough to select a team to win tomorrow and on Sunday in the Premier League."

Fulham hope UEFA will allow them to register keeper Pascal Zuberbuhler in time for the clash against his former club after Stockdale suffered a knee injury in training.

Mark Schwarzer and Zuberbuhler are the club's only fit keepers as the club's two names on the B-list are also in the treatment room, but the former Switzerland international is not registered for the Europa League.

"We've found it difficult to register Zuberbuhler because of the restrictions that meant we had to leave him off the list," said Hodgson

"You have to have so many home-grown players and we don't have any. Twenty-five players for most teams becomes 20 for us because of that.

"I am hoping he'll be on the list for tomorrow because otherwise we'll be in serious trouble as we don't have any other keepers.

"I'm confident that our wish to exchange Stockdale's name for Zuberbuhler will be okay. Normally you're allowed to make the change with 24 hours notice."

Top seeds Basle, who finished third in the Swiss Super League last season, top Group E following their surprise 2-0 victory over Roma.

"We've been lucky to have been drawn in a quality group. We're not seeded to qualify but I wouldn't be surprised if we did qualify," said Hodgson.

Hodgson's extensive coaching CV includes a two-year spell at Swiss club side Neuchatel Xamax and success in guiding the national team to the 1994 World Cup - their first appearance at the finals since 1966.

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