Fulham Europa preparations hit by visa issues

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Roy Hodgson admits Fulham will be taking a small step into the unknown when they face Amkar Perm in tonight's Europa League play-off.

Due to visa requirements Hodgson has been unable to have the Russian Premier League team scouted ahead of the first leg at Craven Cottage, which could see the debut of new signing Damien Duff.

Amkar, the easternmost club involved in a top-flight European competition, finished fourth in their domestic championship last season but are languishing in 13th out of 16 this term.

"We know as much about Amkar as we've been able to find out without seeing them because we couldn't get a visa to watch them play," said Hodgson.

"You need too much time to get visas, at least I did after the play-off draw was made.

"We've seen them on video so we have quite a clear idea of what they're like and how they play.

"But it's a little of an unknown when you go into these European matches.

"I have strong opinions on visas. When a country is going to play in European competition there should be special rules for the team entering the country.

"Football teams should have a special place. We didn't chose to visit Perm, but we've been sent there by UEFA."

The return leg next Thursday presents a major logistical challenge for Fulham given Perm's location 1,200km east of Moscow near the Ural Mountains, involving a five-hour flight.

The following Sunday the Cottagers face Aston Villa and Hodgson would welcome an emphatic win tonight so that he can rotate his squad next week.

"In an ideal scenario we'd win comfortably tonight and be able to rest several players for the second leg but I don't envisage that happening," he said.

"They did fairly well last year, finishing fourth in the Russian league.

"They haven't done so well this season but we're talking about a bona fide team in a professional league."

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