Zamora facing late fitness test for Fulham

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The Independent Online

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson will not gamble on the fitness of striker Bobby Zamora ahead of tomorrow's Europa League semi-final second leg against Hamburg at Craven Cottage.

The 29-year-old - whose 19 goals this season have propelled him into contention for England's World Cup squad - hobbled out of the first leg after he aggravated an Achilles problem and missed the trip to Everton.

Zamora has not trained with the rest of the squad, instead continuing his fitness work with the Fulham medical team.

Hodgson admits it will be touch and go whether the striker is available tomorrow.

"Bobby is much improved and has done some work today with the physios, but we chose for him not to take part in the light training session we had," said Hodgson.

"We just have to wait until tomorrow to have a 100% decision on whether or not he can play.

"Obviously we are concerned about the situation, because if he was fully fit, he would have been training for the last couple of days."

Hodgson added: "When Bobby plays we know what we are doing, and when he does not play, we have people who come in and know what we are doing, so we can leave it late in that respect.

"He will have treatment again tomorrow, then go in front of our medical people, and I think by lunchtime I should know whether or not he has a chance of playing.

"It will be about their assessment, Bobby's own assessment, how he feels, how he thinks it will go - because knowing him as well as I do, he will not want to let the team down.

"He wants to play, but he wants to play as a fit player rather than play and in any way hamper our chances of doing well."

Hodgson made some nine changes to his line-up for the Barclays Premier League game at Goodison Park as he looked to protect his battle-weary players, who had an epic 17-hour journey to Germany for last Thursday's goalless first leg due to the chaos caused by an Icelandic volcano.

Right-back Chris Baird is suspended, so John Pantsil, fit again following a knee problem, is set to come into the side.

Hamburg's preparations have been disrupted by the decision to axe manager Bruno Labbadia after less than 10 months at the helm with his side languishing in seventh in the Bundesliga table.

Ricardo Moniz, who had a spell working at Tottenham as part of Martin Jol's coaching team, has stepped in to take charge until the end of the season.

With the Germans having set their sights on a place in the Europa League final at their home ground next month, and with the likes of former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy in the team, Hodgson does not expect the change in head coach will have a major impact.

"When you reach a game of this level, with the experience and quality of the Hamburg players, they will be capable of producing a very good performance, whomever the manager may be," said the Fulham boss.

"They have played many, many games together, the assistant has stepped in, so there will not be any vast change of philosophy.

"I am expecting the same type of Hamburg we faced a week ago."

Fulham's European adventure has taken them from a third qualifying-round tie back in July against FK Vetra of Lithuania, through the group stages against Roma to superb performances which knocked out favourites Shakhtar Donetsk and then Italian giants Juventus.

Hodgson has also managed to keep Fulham on track in the Premier League, currently safe in 12th place - a remarkable achievement given the relative resources of the Craven Cottage club.

"Maintaining our momentum in the Premier League was our main concern about playing in this competition, now we are up to something like 58 games already," he said.

"For a club like ours, in terms of squad size, there was concern we would not be able to compete on both fronts.

"I am really delighted we have been able to prove people wrong and in the bargain have beaten some very good teams along the way to this semi-final."

Hodgson added: "It is an outstanding achievement, and I take a lot of pride in that.

"But we are all determined not to fail at this stage and to take the ultimate step to the final, rather than go out as gallant losers."

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