Hodgson holds breath as Zamora takes fitness test

Fulham manager fears that injury may rule striker out of tonight's tie with Europa League final spot at stake

Liverpool may not be the only team going into tonight's Europa League semi-finals without their talisman. Fulham will this lunchtime give a fitness test to Bobby Zamora, who is every bit as important to Roy Hodgson's team as Fernando Torres is to Rafael Benitez's.

Hodgson is not one for hyperbole, or singling individuals out, but yesterday he found himself unable to avoid emphasising the importance of Zamora to his side's chances.

Zamora has a long-standing Achilles tendon problem which forced him to go off in the goalless first leg against Hamburg last week, and Hodgson initially said: "Injuries are part and parcel of football, if Bobby can't play we know we have others who can keep our play going." Yet for all the attributes of Clint Dempsey and Erik Nevland, his potential replacements, neither have Zamora's combination of presence and mobility, nor his current confidence in front of goal, and Hodgson reluctantly admitted: "I can't say that it doesn't matter, that we've got plenty of others who can go in and it won't affect us, that would be wrong."

Hodgson added it was the equivalent of Wayne Rooney not playing for Manchester United, Didier Drogba being absent for Chelsea, or Robin van Persie out at Arsenal. Such comparisons, which would have seemed ludicrous a year ago, are now valid. As Danny Murphy, Fulham's captain said: "Even though we are a team unit, without Bobby we would not be in the semi-final."

Zamora, said Hodgson, may need an operation this summer to clear up his injury. Should Zamora be called up for England's World Cup squad, a far from fanciful prospect, any operation would be delayed.

While Zamora was instrumental in the victories over Basle, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus and Wolfsburg which got Fulham this far, it is not a one-man team. Mark Schwarzer, Aaron Hughes, Damien Duff and Murphy are among other influential figures. As Murphy added: "There are no stars. Perhaps Bobby has become the star this season because of the goals he has scored, but if you ask people about Fulham they will say we will play as a team."

Tonight Fulham need only to win, or go through on penalties after another goalless draw to reach their first final since the FA Cup in 1975. For Murphy that would be more impressive than reaching the Uefa Cup final with Liverpool in 2001 (which Liverpool won). "This would be one of the greatest achievements of our history whereas at Liverpool they are talking about reaching the same final as a consolation. That puts it into perspective," he said.

Fulham, 40-1 outsiders at the start of the season, start as favourites tonight for the first time in the knock-out stages, not that Hodgson sees it that way. But while he spoke of his respect for the opposition's talent, resources and reputation, Hamburg, who host next month's final, are in some disarray. They have won twice in nine matches and sacked Bruno Labbadia, after Sunday's 5-1 defeat at Hoffenheim.

Ricardo Moniz has taken over as caretaker coach. The Dutchman's previous experience has been as an assistant or as a skills coach – in which capacity he worked with Murphy at Tottenham under Martin Jol. This is the first time he has been responsible for picking a senior team but while no one knows quite what to expect – Murphy said jokingly he hoped Moniz would come up with some bizarre and flawed tactical scheme – Hodgson did not anticipate major changes, nor did he see the switch as beneficial to Fulham.

Fulham recall John Pantsil for the suspended Chris Baird. That he is available is fortuitous: Hodgson had not anticipated the Ghanaian recovering this quickly from a cruciate injury and would have omitted him from the competition squad had a vacancy not occurred when Diomansy Kamara was loaned to Celtic.

Hamburg are without the dangerous Piotr Trochowski, who is banned, but will nevertheless hope to provide Ruud van Nistelrooy with better service than in the first leg.

If they do not Fulham should be heading back to Hamburg next month, this time by air, for a 19th and final Europa League cup tie.

The last time...

*Victory for Fulham tonight will put the West London side through to only the second major final in their 131-year history. The Craven Cottage club previously reached the FA Cup final as a Second Division outfit in 1975, losing 2-0 to West Ham United at Wembley with a team featuring the likes of Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery.

That Cup campaign began with a stutter as they took three matches to beat Hull City in the third round and four games to overcome Nottingham Forest. A 2-1 fifth round win at Everton put the London side through to a quarter-final at Carlisle, where Les Barrett scored the only goal of the game. A 120th-minute John Mitchell goal was then required to see off Birmingham in a semi-final replay at Maine Road as Alec Stock's side made it through.

James Mariner

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen