Roy’s cup will be half Ful after Thursday night
Roy Hodgson is certainly no stranger to European football and by the look of how Fulham have played in the Europa League this season, he's passed on his vast experience to his team to get them in with a great shout of success.
They won't find it easy against Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday night, but with their recent good home form and also their rock solid defence they should feel confident of gaining an advantage for the second leg in Ukraine.
The Cottagers have gone four and a half matches without conceding, albeit against teams towards the bottom of the table, and have got a striker in Bobby Zamora (11/2 to score first, 6/4 to notch at anytime of the match) who seems to be reinvigorated this season.
The former West Ham player doesn't always get the credit he deserves and has had to come in for some flak from his own supporters this season, but his manager can't speak highly enough of him, especially given his run of eight goals in his last 13 games making it 13 for the season.
The Londoner almost single-handedly put Fulham into the knockout stage by scoring a brace in the final group game in Basle, and has stuck up a fine partnership with David Elm (13/2 first, 15/8 any) recently, the Swede hasn't managed to get that many goals but the link-up play the two have enjoyed in the last few games will give Cottagers fans reasons to be hopeful for the rest of the season.
If the likes of Damien Duff (10/1 first goal, 7/2 anytime) and Simon Davies (25/1 first, 8/1 any) can get plenty of balls into the front two then they could make the 6/4 on Fulham look like a snip, the draw wouldn't be a disaster for the Whites and that's an 11/5 shot while the visiting Ukrainians are 9/5 to gain a first leg advantage.
I think Fulham can do the business on Thursday night, but it will be a close game, a 1-0 win would probably be the most sensible scoreline and that's an 11/2 chance.
Of course Shakhtar will provide a really tough test, after all they are the defending champions (when it was named the UEFA Cup), the Miners are sat second in the Ukrainian league and look good for a qualification place for next year's Champions League.
However, they might be rusty as they haven't played a competitive game since losing to FK Partizan on 16 December.
If they aren't showing signs of rustiness and can get their passing game that was instrumental in their triumph in last season's competition going then it will make for a really good game.
They will be led by the excellent Dario Srna (16/1 first goal, 6/1 anytime) who is the architect of so many of Shakhtar's passing moves and is a dab hand from set pieces, and have some classy attacking options such as Brazilian trio Fernandinho (9/1 first, 10/3 any), Luiz Adriano (11/2 first, 6/4 any), who scored the opener in last season's UEFA Cup final and has nine goals in 14 League appearances as well as five in European competition, and Jadson (7/1 first, 2/1 any).
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