Roy Hodgson plays down Fulham form

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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson has advised caution over unrealistic expectations as Fulham attempt to complete an outstanding year with victory at Chelsea tomorrow.

Pundits have been queuing up to shower Hodgson's Fulham with praise as the club continues to punch above its weight under the guidance of their astute manager.

They finished last season's Barclays Premier League campaign in an all-time high of seventh, qualifying for the Europa League, and continue to thrive this term.

A last 32 appointment with Shakhtar Donetsk awaits in Europe while the club enter tomorrow's Bank Holiday round of fixtures in ninth place, five points above Sunderland.

Evidence of their growing ambition could be gleaned from their frustration at failing to dispatch Champions League-chasing Tottenham in yesterday's goalless draw at Craven Cottage.

Just seven days earlier they thumped champions Manchester United 3-0 and west London rivals Chelsea will face a side brimming with confidence.

But while Hodgson agrees Fulham fans should be revelling in the success, he implores them not to lose sight of the club's limitations.

"Our blank sheet of paper at the start of the season said stay up," he said.

"I'm delighted with the way things are going, especially for the chairman because he's had many bad years.

"The fans are enjoying it and this is a very good moment in our history.

"But if we ever start thinking this is easy, we'll be heading for a fall.

"Just look at clubs like Leeds, Charlton and Norwich - who'd have thought it possible that they'd be where they are now?

"Our message to the fans is let's keep enjoying it but to not lose sight of why it's happening. Let's not get carried away.

"We'll never have more than 24,000 people watching our games in our wonderful old stadium.

"We won't have a ground like the Emirates or Old Trafford because this is who we are.

"We are near the maximum of what we can be, but we can stay here.

"There's no reason why we have to drop but it will be very hard to stay here."

Fulham's hopes of securing a rare victory over their neighbours have been damaged by the availability of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel, who have agreed a delay to their departure for the African Nations Cup.

But Nicolas Anelka, Michael Essien and Florent Malouda are missing and Fulham will fancy their chances of toppling a team that has drawn four of their last five matches.

"Chelsea have strength in depth and that great feeling that constant winning does for you. They just don't lose at Stamford Bridge," he said.

"They feel that whatever team they put out will be capable of beating the Fulhams of this world. Hopefully we'll frighten them a little bit.

"We're not involved in the title race but I listen to what the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti are saying and we must give them credence when they say the Premiership is tougher than ever.

"They know they will lose more games than they did a few years ago."

Fulham will assess the fitness of Brede Hangeland carefully before deciding if the centre-back will start.

Hangeland suffered a knee injury during yesterday's warm-up and although he completed the match he is a doubt to face the Premier League leaders.

Only the heroics of Heurelho Gomes denied Fulham three points against Spurs with the Brazilian keeper denying goalbound attempts by Clint Dempsey, Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff.