While the loss to Manchester United was tough to watch, most any Fulham supporter would tell you that he/she expected nothing from that match, particularly coming off a midweek trip to Italy. Despite the loss the Cottagers remain in 10th place on 38 points with 9 matches to play. The club is not going to get relegated and unless something amazing happens, this team will not qualify for Europe a second consecutive season.
So while qualification for Europe next season is in doubt, that leaves us with the Europa League this season and the major hole the Cottagers have to dig themselves out of after falling 3-1 to Juventus last Thursday in Turin. While the match will be played along the River Thames at Craven Cottage, it is a big ask to keep the Italian giants off the scoresheet and also score two of your own, which is what it will take for the Cottagers to advance to the final eight of the competition.
I know as Fulham supporters we have come to expect the unexpected over the last few joyous seasons, but truth be told, I am not that optimistic that the Cottagers have it in them to get the kind of result they need against Juve when they visit the Cottage. It is not impossible, but the Italians were the far superior team in Italy and while the venue will change, the players on the pitch will likely stay the same. With a comfortable lead, Juve will be playing with confidence and for all intents and purposes, they will be playing with defense on mind content to sit back and defend knowing that Fulham needs to score two goals to advance.
Is it possible that Fulham can turn the tables and advance? Yes. However, I would not go into Thursday's match fully expecting the Cottagers to advance. This is not a lower level English team they are playing. This is a European powerhouse that has been in situations like this many, many times throughout the years. It will not be easy and in fact, will require Fulham to play the best match they have played in a long, long time. I will watch on Thursday but I fear the European run from Fulham will come to an end. I will not write the eulogy on Europe just yet, but I am putting together ideas for it.
Lastly, the Cottagers are still alive and kicking in the FA Cup. After drawing with Spurs 0-0 at the Cottage last week, Fulham will surrender the home field advantage when the two square off on Wednesday, March 24th at White Hart Lane with a spot in the semi-finals at Wembley against Portsmouth at stake. It would have been nice if Fulham could have gotten the win at the Cottage in the first leg, but it was not to be and a trip to North London has to be made.
Spurs are tough at home and this will be a difficult match for the Cottagers to win. However, Roy Hodgson will surely have his team up for this match full well knowing that a win separates the Cottagers from a spot in the final by one match against Premier League strugglers Portsmouth.
At this point in time, I am more excited about the FA Cup than I am the Europa League. Had the result in Italy last week been different, I might think differently, but it seems to be a near impossible challenge that faces the Cottagers on Thursday against Juventus.
Which competition are you most excited about right now? Do you think Fulham has any chance of beating Juventus by two goals and advancing in the Europa League? If you do believe they can, what makes you believe that it can happen?