Having both lost 3-0 on Saturday, plunging each of them deeper into relegation trouble, Fulham and Sheffield United have more significant priorities than Tuesday night’s FA Cup fourth round replay at Craven Cottage, but only one can approach tonight’s tie with a ‘what will be, will be’ outlook.
Sheffield United's history is more illustrious than Fulham's but at present they are a struggling League One side so will travel to their Premier League opponents with no pressure of expectation. They have already made their mark on the FA Cup after winning at Villa Park in the last round and manager Nigel Clough may welcome a night free of worry before Saturday's relegation scrap at home to Shrewsbury.
Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen, however, can ill-afford another humbling with Manchester United and Liverpool next on the agenda, and reports suggesting Alan Curbishley may soon be promoted from technical director to replacement.
"Nothing positive, nothing good comes out of losing a game," said Meulensteen who said he felt he had "100 per cent" support from owner Shahid Khan and was not about to "lose any sleep" over the rumours about Curbishley.
Mulensteen cannot field any of Fulham's six deadline recruits because they are ineligible having not been signed prior to the original tie. He will thus deploy a mixture of the regulars and fringe players similar to that which beat Norwich in the third round and drew with the Blades at Bramall Lane. Sascha Riether (calf) and Kieran Richardson (foot) should be fit but Fernando Amorebieta (knee) and John Arne Riise (hamstring) are doubtful.
Sheffield United are without cup-tied Billy Paynter and Elliot Whitehouse, and Michael Doyle is suspended after being dismissd in the first match. "A cup run would mean nothing unless we start winning in the league," Clough said. "The last thing we want is to have a cup run and then struggle in the league and be in the relegation zone."
The winners face Preston or Nottingham Forest for a place in the quarter-final.
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