FULHAM vs ODENSE BK
FULHAM manager Martin Jol insists star striker Bobby Zamora still has a future at the club and has played down suggestions he has fallen out with the England international ahead of tonight’s must-win Europa League fixture against Odense.
Reports of a rift between the two first surfaced in August and were further fuelled by Zamora’s surprise omission from Saturday’s Premier League defeat at Swansea.
The 30-year-old will return to the squad for this evening’s European assignment – the Cottagers need to at least match Wisla Krakow’s result against runaway group leaders Twente to progress to the last 32 – with Jol confident his prize asset remains committed to the club.
“I asked him a few weeks ago ‘Do you love this club?’ he said ‘Yeah, I love this club, I love this team’,” Jol said. “I don’t think there is any problem.
“I think the grass is always greener on the other side but it is not only for him. There is not one player that has told me he does not want to play for this squad. I feel if you look at the media, they started this Bobby thing in August.
“I wanted a good atmosphere and a good team that pushes each other.”
When pressed again, Jol admitted he had not always seen eye-to-eye with the former Tottenham player, who is attracting interest from a clutch of Premier League clubs, including Sunderland and Aston Villa.
“The media said we had a ‘bust-up’ at the start of the season, but you always have a little bit of a disagreement,” said Jol.
As well as Zamora, Jol will welcome back winger Damien Duff and defender Chris Baird, but goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer faces a fitness test on a damaged spine.
“I realise we need to win this game because of the Wisla Krakow away game where we lost 1-0,” Jol added. “I know Twente will play almost a reserve side [in the group’s other match] so I think Wisla have a great chance to win that game so we have to do everything to win.”
FULHAM | EUROPEAN CONUNDRUM
Having reached the final of this competition back in May 2010, many of this Fulham squad have experienced having to cope with the demands of a Thursday-Sunday playing schedule that comes with the territory of playing in the Europa League. On the evidence of this season, however, it appears the additional European commitments are having an adverse impact on their domestic form.
EL campaign started: 30 July
EL games up until Dec 16: 9
PL games up until Dec 16: 16
PL points up until Dec 16: 23
PL points per game until Dec 16: 1.43
PL position on Dec 16: 9th
Final PL points total: 46
Final PL finishing position: 12th
EL campaign started: 30 June
EL games up until Dec 16: 13
PL games up until Dec 16: 15
PL points up until Dec 16: 15
PL points per game until Dec 16: 1
Current PL position: 14th
Fulham will qualify for the knockout stages with victory at Craven Cottage tonight. A draw will only be good enough if Wisla Krakow fail to be FC Twente, while a Fulham defeat and a draw for the Poles in Holland would still see the Premier League side progress on account of their superior head-to-head record.