Boro v Fulham preview

Tuesday 19 February 2002

Fulham are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, yet their assistant manager Christian Damiano believes the club can qualify for Europe with a strong finish in the Premiership, rather than relying on winning the trophy.

Jean Tigana's side enjoyed a 2-1 Cup win at Walsall on Saturday and visit another First Division side, West Bromwich Albion, for a place in the semi-finals.

Tonight, Fulham visit Middlesbrough eager to improve their standing in the League.They are in ninth place, with eight points separating them from sixth-placed Leeds.

Damiano said: 'The Middlesbrough match is a very important one for us. We're in front of them in the table, but they will be a difficult team to play.

'We need to have a lot of good results to get into Europe. We have achieved our first objective, of staying in the Premier League, and after that, we have other targets. Our players have good confidence and the group is very together.'

However, Damiano is concerned any injuries Fulham pick up will emphasise the squad's lack of depth.

TEAM NEWS

Hamilton Ricard and Phil Stamp are out injured for Middlesbrough. Ricard has a broken toe and Stamp misses out with a shoulder injury, while Italian defender Gianluca Festa serves the second game of a three-match ban. Midfielder Jonathan Greening returns from suspension.

Fulham's Lee Clark, who has been out since Boxing Day with an Achilles problem, is hoping to return to action within three weeks. Meanwhile, the match at the Riverside Stadium also comes too early for Luis Boa Morte, who has an ankle injury.

MOST SIGNIFICANT STATS

CURRENT LEAGUE POSITIONS

MIDDLESBROUGH: 16th 28 points - Best poss: 11th - Worst poss: 17th (but only if by three clear goals)

FULHAM: 9th 35 points - Best poss: 7th (if win by 2 clear goals) - Worst poss: 9th

SEQUENCES / RECENT FORM

MIDDLESBROUGH:

DRAWN LAST 2 PREMIERSHIP MATCHES
4 UNBEATEN (Prem)
4 HOME LGE GMS UNDEFEATED

FULHAM:

NOT CONCEDED IN LAST 2 PREM GMS [260 mins / 4 hrs 20 mins]
Tightest Prem defence: Conc 23 in 25

POTENTIAL CAREER MILESTONES

FULHAM: If he plays, Bjarne GOLDBAEK will make his 100th appearance in the English League
NOTES

Fulham look to complete the 'double' in their first ever Premiership visit to Middlesbrough. The Cottagers won the reverse fixture 2-1 just over a month ago.

Colin Cooper took advantage of a defensive mix-up to put 'Boro ahead. Louis Saha equalised with a diving header and Steve Marlet won it, although the Teessiders complained he was off side.

Previous meetings: Played 41 Boro wins 19 Fulham wins 17 Draws 5

HEAD TO HEAD NOTES

This is the first League fixture between these two at Middlesbrough for 14 years. The Teessiders are seeking a fourth successive home League win over Fulham.

The Cottagers' last League win at Middlesbrough was 0-2 on 24 March, 1984 in the former Second Division.

'Boro's last home win in the top flight over the Londoners was 2-0 in the old League - Division One on 15 September, 1951.

Fulham's one and only top flight maximum at Middlesbrough was 53 years ago. The Londoners won 1-2 in the League - Division One on 7 September, 1949.

Fulham are on course for their first ever 'double' over 'Boro in the top flight and fifth in the League over them. The most recent was 18 years ago.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE: DERMOT GALLAGHER, Banbury, Oxfordshire.