Schwarzer ready for 'huge' game

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The Independent Online

Fulham, playing in the quarter-finals of a European competition for the first time, take a 2-1 lead to German champions Wolfsburg tomorrow determined to continue a Europa League run that has captured the imagination of their supporters.

Liverpool host Benfica trailing 2-1 from the first leg, as do Standard Liège who entertain Hamburg. Valencia did it the hard way in the previous round, knocking out Werder Bremen with a 4-4 away draw, and they believe they can repeat the trick at Atletico Madrid.

All four ties are delicately poised in a competition that is often dismissed as the poor relation to the Champions League but in which there have been some outstanding games in the knockout stages this year.

Fulham are delighted with their progress, having reached the last eight at the expense of Juventus. "It is huge what we have already accomplished for the club and as players we want to continue it," said goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

"You need to ask the chairman and the fans how big an achievement they think it is, but as players we are on the verge of something huge."

The match at Anfield will feature two of the teams who appear to be least excited about the competition. For Liverpool, the Europa League is a mere consolation in a season during which they exited the Champions League at the group stage and were out of the Premier League running by January.

Their opponents are more interested in winning the domestic league for the first time since 2005, having seen their bitter rivals Porto walk off with the title in the subsequent four seasons.

Valencia, held 2-2 at home by Atletico last week, find themselves in a similar position to the previous round, when they drew 1-1 at home to Werder Bremen and went through on away goals after an eight-goal thriller in the return. "We did it the difficult way in Germany and we are capable of repeating that in Madrid," playmaker David Silva said.

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