Fulham v Bologna preview

Monday 26 August 2002

From Ian McCulloch

After suffering at the hands of Maccarone on Saturday, Fulham find themselves up against more Italian opposition on Tuesday night with the visit of Serie A side Bologna to contest the final of the Intertoto cup.

If there are any Fulham supporters out there who still aren't getting excited by this remarkable start to the season, then just take a look at the Premiership top-scorers table in your Sunday newspaper - it makes for tremendous reading.

Top of the table is one Sylvain Legwinski with four goals, second is Steve Marlet with three, and then in amongst the next tranche of players are Sean Davis and Louis Saha with two each. Fantastic.

All in all, it should put Fulham in very good heart for Tuesday. Assistant Manager Christian Damiano, who described Saturday's game with Middlesbrough as a beautiful draw, talked about the difficulty of playing two such important games in the space of four days.

"It is a good and bad situation for us," he said, "The Middlesbrough game was our ninth game so far this season, and they've all been competitive - we have played no friendlies. Sometimes this can be a problem for players, but we have a good tempo going now and overall I am very optimistic about our chances for the game against Bologna.

"It will be a difficult game, but if we can draw 0-0 or 1-1 then we've got the result. You have to say that we're in a good position going into the match.

"It will be different playing against an Italian team, they have certain characteristics that you do not come up against in English teams. You need to be very careful because sometimes the game is more tactical and it can be very physical. And of course Italian players are very good at making life very difficult for the opposition, and that can be very dangerous.

"But at the moment our team is very concentrated and is well focussed, and I think that we have the capacity to produce a good result."

Damiano was quick to refute any notion that there would be a temptation to rest players for either of the games.

"At the moment we are taking things one game at a time," he said, "The Middlesbrough game was the most important for us, and now the Bologna game is the most important, so each time we must put out what we feel is our strongest team.

"We started out two months ago with this game in mind, and now we are ready. If we can get into the UEFA Cup it would be a fantastic challenge for us, and it would also be a big achievement. In the two years that we have been here, we have had a fantastic season where we won promotion and then to get into Europe this soon would be amazing - there are very few teams that have managed to do that.

"Being in the UEFA Cup would help us grow to another level. It means playing at a higher standard and helps build confidence and self-belief. It would be a fantastic challenge for all the players.

"The players don't need any motivating before this match - it is the final! We already have a psychological advantage because of the result in the first leg, but as long as we play with the same spirit as we did against Bolton then we have the opportunity of achieving a fantastic result for the club."

Francesco Guidolin, the Bologna Coach has already acknowledged that his team are up against it on Tuesday. "It will take a performance of the very highest level to advance. I hope we are capable of it," he said.

With defender Guilio Falcone and midfielder Tomas Locatelli both struggling to be fit, former international goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca also admitted that they have a hard task in front of them. Pagliuca believes that Fulham's continental style of play gives them the edge.

"They play a lot of possession football," he said, "And only try to attack with long balls occasionally. They stuck to their formation very well against us."

It promises to be a fantastic occasion on Tuesday. Your support does make a difference, make sure you're there to help Fulham finish off their own Italian Job.