Hodgson says Europa draw is tough

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The Independent Online

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson believes his side have been handed one of the toughest Europa League draws by being paired with UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Ukrainian side beat Werder Bremen in the final of Europe's second competition last season before its name and format changed this summer.

Shakhtar topped group J, which included Club Brugge, Toulouse and Partizan Belgrade to make the last 32 of the competition.

Fulham beat FC Basle to come second in their group, which also contained CSKA Sofia and Italian giants Roma.

Shakhtar qualified for the Champions League this year but failed to progress to the group stages after losing to Romanian minnows FC Timisoara in the second qualifying round.

Hodgson, whose side sit in ninth place in the Barclays Premier League, is expecting a tough match.

He said: "It doesn't get much harder than playing the champions I suppose. We saw last year what a good team they are.

"Last year was a great success for Ukrainian football with Dinamo Kiev reaching the semi final as well so we couldn't have asked for a much tougher draw.

"On the other hand we have battled hard to get through the group stage and we were hoping for a good game, an interesting game."

Ukrainian business tycoon Rinat Akhmetov has invested heavily in the club since being appointed club chairman and the club's squad contains a mixture of home grown talent and foreign imports, many of them from Brazil.

"I have just been looking at their squad and I think there are 13 foreign players, some of them Brazilians," Hodgson said.

"They are a wealthy club. They buy players for a lot of money and obviously they are one of the top two teams in their league and they have also proved they are one of the top teams in European football."

If Fulham win they will face either Ajax or Juventus in the next round.

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