Fulham set for Roman challenge

Hodgson knows Serie A side will provide tough test in Stadio Olimpico tonight
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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, enjoyed a lot of success against Roma when he coached in Italy and he is hoping for more of the same in his side's Europa League showdown tonight.

While coaching Internazionale, Hodgson took on Roma five times, winning three matches and losing just once. "I have always enjoyed coming here," he said. "My memories are more positive than negative."

However, he knows the importance of tonight's match for both his team and Roma. "I expect Basle to win," Hodgson said. "That means that whoever loses at the Stadio Olimpico will have a difficult task to progress.

"I think in order for us to go through to the next round, we will need to finish with nine or 10 points. We will be wise and be prepared for a difficult game; we want to see how far we can go against them."

Claudio Ranieri, the Roma coach, is expecting a hard game against Fulham. The Giallorossi, still missing striker Francesco Totti with a knee injury, go into the game third in Group E, one point behind the second-placed Cottagers and two behind the leaders, Basle, with three games remaining.

Fulham arrive in the Italian capital on the back of a 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Premier League and Ranieri, a former coach of Fulham's west London rivals Chelsea, knows that his team will be put to the sternest of tests.

He said: "Fulham did well against Manchester City and they won convincingly against Liverpool. We expect a difficult game.

"We knew that would be the case in our first game against them, where we managed to come home with a point [from a 1-1 draw]."

Ranieri believes that the biggest threat Fulham pose will be on the break: "It's going to be complicated because Fulham will try to hit us in fast counter-attacks."

However, he remains confident his team will cope and improve in the hope of progressing to the next round.

"We have two important games at home and we want to keep going in Europe," he said.

"Of course we are missing the Champions League but that by no means suggests that we don't consider this competition important. We want to go as far as possible in this tournament."

Roma halted a run of three consecutive league defeats with a 2-1 victory over Bologna at the weekend to climb to 14th in Serie A.

Ranieri, though, is quick to admit his team are still a long way from being at their best. "We are missing a striker; we create chances but we are lacking a player to finish them off – we simply don't seem to score many goals."

Victory tonight will be a huge morale boost for the Giallorossi leading into Sunday's game away to Serie A leaders, Internazionale. "To go into the game at Inter with an important result would do good for our spirit," said Ranieri. "Our aim is to create goalscoring chances and try to finish them off without giving away a goal."

However, Roma will have to make do without the injured pair of Juan and Nicolas Burdisso, although Mirko Vucinic has recovered from a muscular injury and is set to lead the attack alongside Julio Baptista.