What European football is all about: Fulham’s glamour match at Roma

Roma v Fulham, Europa League, November 5, 2009

Roma 8/11; Draw 5/2; Fulham 4/1

Fulham hardly received much credit for their stunning win over Liverpool last Saturday. All the talk has been of Rafa Benitez and Fernando Torres or the red cards handed out to Phillip Degen and Jamie Carragher.

But, the Cottagers are a tough nut to crack for even the best teams in Europe and recent performances away at West Ham (with ten men) and at Manchester City where they recovered to gain a point from two-down, illustrates the impressive job done by Roy Hodgson.

After the euphoria of seeing off the Mersyeside giants, Fulham head to Rome looking for revenge after they were denied a famous win over the Serie A side two weeks ago. Only an injury-time equaliser from Marco Andreolli (16/1 to score) ensured Roma secured a point at Craven Cottage after Fulham had taken the lead through giant Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland (12/1 to score).

A glance at the Group E table proves just what a crucial match this is for both sides if they want to progress to the knockout stages. With Basle top on six points and facing a winnable encounter with CSKA Sofia, the winner of this match could take a stranglehold on second place with Fulham just one point in front of Roma before the start of play.

The Fulham camp have received a major boost with the news that both Andy Johnson (16/1 to score first & Fulham win) and Danny Murphy could return for the trip to Rome after injury lay-offs. With the Europa League providing a punishing schedule on top of league commitments, Roy Hodgson will welcome the extra bodies.

For Fulham, having played the likes of Vetra Vilnius and Amkar Perm in their European tour so far in 2009/2010, this is undoubtedly the glamour match of their adventure in the Europa League. Roy Hodgson though continues to sing from the same hymn-sheet, warning that the Premier League match at Wigan on Sunday is more important, so there could be plenty of changes to the Fulham side that beat Liverpool.

This means we could yet witness another direct clash between John Arne Riise (5/1 to score) and his brother Bjorn Helge Riise. The Fulham midfielder has made the majority of his appearances in the Europa League and could face John Arne in a direct clash as right winger against left full back.

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri has a number of injury problems to deal with. Defender Juan picked up a calf strain in the 2-1 win over Bologna on Sunday, whilst captain and talisman Francesco Totti is definitely out. French striker Jeremy Menez is another major doubt after picking up a groin injury in training earlier this week.

The victory over Bologna was much needed after a run of three successive defeats in Serie A and there is no doubt Roma are not the same side when Totti is out. Fans of the capital club must also be wondering whether Claudio Ranieri was much of an improvement on former coach Luciano Spalletti.

The Giallorossi do though have plenty of attacking talent that could cause plenty of problems for Hangeland, Schwarzer and co. Sunday’s goal scorers Mirko Vucinic (9/5 to score & Roma win) and Simone Perrotta (11/1 to score first & Roma win) are two of the main danger men as is former Arsenal and Real Madrid attacking midfielder Julio Baptista (15/8 to score).

Fulham’s task is made that little bit harder by the fact that Roma have won their last six matches at home in Europe but Roy Hodgson’s side are used to being the underdogs and even their reserve players have proved they can come in and do a job.

101gg predicts: Roma 2 – Fulham 2 (16/1)

Roma 8/11; Draw 5/2; Fulham 4/1

Full match odds here.