Fulham's Europa clash to go ahead

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The Independent Football

Fulham have confirmed that the first leg of their Europa League semi-final in Hamburg on Thursday will go ahead as planned.

The Cottagers' first leg in Germany was thought to be in jeopardy thanks to the volcanic ash cloud which has engulfed Europe's skies, causing Britain's airports to remain closed until 1am tomorrow morning at the earliest.

But a statement on Fulham's website confirmed that the match will take place at the HSH Nordbank Arena.

The statement read: "The club can confirm that its Europa League semi-final match versus Hamburg will take place on Thursday, April 22 as planned."

The Fulham team are scheduled to fly to the northern German city by private jet on Wednesday morning before taking part in a training session at Hamburg's ground.

The club say they have put contingency plans in place which will enable them to make the journey by other means should the flight ban remain in place.

The club have also booked planes to fly fans and media to the game, but they admitted that they were unsure whether these flights would also be able to go ahead.

"The team has a contingency plan for travel to enable them to arrive in Hamburg in time for their scheduled match preparations on Wednesday evening," the statement continued.

"At this stage the club still cannot confirm whether the planes scheduled to depart on Wednesday and Thursday to transport fans and media will be able to travel, and is in regular dialogue with the aviation authorities to enable it to inform all parties at the earliest opportunity when a decision is made."

UEFA are expected to confirm later this afternoon whether the first leg of Liverpool's semi-final against Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium, which is due to take place on the same day, will go ahead.

Should Fulham be unable to make the 95-minute journey by plane, they could have to make a 10-hour, 580-mile road trip to get to the Hamburg.

This could have profound implications on Fulham's preparations for the tie, which is arguably the biggest in their history.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson said following Saturday's 0-0 draw with Wolves that he thought it would be unfair if UEFA forced his side to travel by land to the game.

"It will be a disadvantage if we can't fly and were obliged to find other means of travel," the 62 year old said.

He also admitted after the draw at Craven Cottage that he would have to abide by UEFA's decision though.

He said: "If it turns out that we are told that you have to travel anyway, then we'll travel there the best we can and we'll still do our best on the night."

Most of the 2,500 Fulham fans who are expected to travel to the game have booked tickets on the Ryanair, EasyJet, bmibaby and Lufthansa flights scheduled to travel to Hamburg over the next few days.

Ryanair has already cancelled one of its flights on Wednesday morning and all other airlines are warning that delays may occur once British airspace opens.

Hodgson said it would be a "disaster" if those fans, many of whom have followed the team since their European campaign began in July, could not get to Thursday's game.

"It would be a disaster for them if they couldn't get flights there," said the former Inter Milan boss.

"It would be a real shame. For 30 or 40 people you might find train seats but for the 2,500 who have been really looking forward to this game then it's different."