Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has no intention of taking Wolfsburg lightly as he attempts to guide his side into yet more unchartered territory, especially as he has a doubt over the fitness of his leading scorer Bobby Zamora.
Fulham's Europa League adventure has already seen them account for Uefa Cup holders Shakhtar Donetsk and Italian club Juventus. Wolfsburg may not be quite as big a name as the Serie A giants but they are the Bundesliga champions and began the season in the Champions League – going out of the tournament after Manchester United beat them 3-1 thanks to Michael Owen's hat-trick.
Hodgson has dismissed suggestions they are any less of a threat to his side's chances of a historic place in the semi-finals. "I wouldn't say that," he said. "Wolfsburg were in the Champions League, they won the league last year ahead of Bayern Munich. And Bayern Munich have just beaten Manchester United – so we have no chance.
"What I've learned about Wolfsburg I have only learned since we were drawn against them. But I know they are a good team, they score a lot of goals, they have good attacking players and they are well-organised. We know the task is tough but every one of the seven teams we could have played is capable of beating us."
Fulham have lost their last three matches since that epic night at Craven Cottage when Juve were hammered 4-1. But Hodgson rested five key players in last weekend's defeat at Hull as he prioritised tonight's first leg at Craven Cottage. Yesterday he defended that policy.
"I don't think our performances have been worthy of criticism but there is no doubt that, all the time we were in the cup competitions, they would be somewhat more of a priority than the league because we are relatively safe," he said. "We have put the cup matches in the shop window. We feel a sense of achievement and pride that we have overcome so many obstacles to get this far.
"Having overcome those obstacles, we have earned the right to believe in ourselves and to believe that, if luck continues to favour us, we can go even further. But we are conscious that the teams we are playing are more than capable of beating us so it's going to require another fantastic effort if we are going to continue this adventure."
Zamora was sent home from training yesterday because of a cold but Hodgson is hopeful the 29-year-old will be fit to play. Dickson Etuhu, Damien Duff, Aaron Hughes and Danny Murphy should return to the starting line-up after they were rested, along with Zamora, for the Hull match.
Fulham team (probable, 4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Etuhu, Murphy, Duff; Gera; Zamora.Reuse content