Marlet's relief

Monday 11 March 2002

Fulham striker Steve Marlet says the FA Cup semi-final draw has done his team a favour by pitting them against Chelsea rather than Arsenal.

Their £11.5million record signing started the countdown to next month's west London derby by saying he is relieved to have avoided Arsene Wenger's side.

Marlet thinks Fulham's two big defeats by Arsenal in the Premiership would have been difficult to put out of their minds at this stage of the competition.

Wenger's men still have to beat Newcastle in the replay on 23 March to seal a place in the last four, but they are the only side Jean Tigana's players believe have convincingly beaten them this season.

Arsenal won 3-1 at Craven-Cottage last September and tore Fulham apart in the 4-1 thrashing at Highbury in February, but Chelsea are a much less daunting prospect for Marlet and Co.

They drew 1-1 at Fulham last September and the French international Marlet said: 'We were unlucky at Chelsea last week when we lost 3-2 because we had many chances to score. We played well against them and we have to do that again. If we have a bit more success or luck then why can't we beat them?

'I am very happy for our supporters to play Chelsea again and to have the chance to take revenge.

'I know that at this stage of the competition none of the teams are easy to beat, but maybe playing Arsenal would have been dangerous for us because we found it very difficult against them before. It may have been tough psychologically to play them, so I am happy that we are not doing so in the semi-final.'

Marlet headed in Steed Malbranque's second-half free-kick yesterday at West Brom to send Fulham into the last four for the first time since 1975.

However, people shouldn't read too much into the fact that Tigana's side have yet to play Premiership opposition-in the cup this season-The 28-year-old said: 'Every team we've played so far - Wycombe, York, Walsall and West Brom - have been below us, but it has not been an easy ride.

'If you saw the West Brom game, we were not so far apart and they are a good team. It's been tough, but maybe now we can play the good football we like. It will be a very different challenge.'

Source: ESPN