UEFA Cup quest begins

Friday 5 July 2002

The last time FC Haka played on English soil, they made the daunting trip to Anfield for a Champions League third-round qualifying match.

Despite holding firm and going into half time with the scores level at 1-1, Haka lost grip of the match in the second period and eventually ended up on the wrong end of a 4-1 beating.

The Finnish side will undoubtedly be looking to set matters straight on Saturday, in a match that sees the Whites make a their return to Craven Cottage.

At the end of the 2001/02 season, the footballing festival which was set to see the Cottage off in style failed to materialise and Micky Adam's Leicester shut up shop.

However, it appears that the football Gods were smiling on Fulham as the Intertoto Cup campaign has now given Jean Tigana's men the chance to give the old stadium a fitting send-off.

Haka's chance to erase their memories of that night at Anfield has been dealt a blow with the news that star-striker, Valeri Popovitch will be missing from Saturday's line-up.

Press reports have indicated that Popovitch's alleged fear of flying means that the Russian play-maker will be sitting this match out.

Nonetheless, the Finnish front line will still carry the considerable treat of 6'5" striker Peter Kovacs. The giant Hungarian will be unsurprisingly used as a target for any long balls played up to the front line. His sheer size and strength will make him a tricky proposition.

Jean Tigana's men have spent the past week in an Exeter training camp in preparation for the match. Chris Coleman could be set to make his long-awaited return to first team action after a summer of intensive fitness and rehabilitation work and new signing Facundo Sava could also be in line to make his first appearance for the Whites.

With the exception of Lee Clark, who is still recovering from a calf operation, Jean Tigana will have a full compliment of players to pick from.