Stadio Olimpico test beckons for Fulham
Fulham and Roma renew acquaintances in the Eternal City on Thursday after an eventful 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage a fortnight ago, which saw Mark Schwarzer save Jimmy Menez’s penalty and Marco Andreolli equalise Brede Hangeland’s header at the death.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson attributed his side’s failure to beat Roma a fortnight ago to the dismissal of Stephen Kelly and the former Inter Milan coach will be determined to put on a good show on his return to Italian soil.
Hodgson, who twice coached the Nerazzurri as well as enjoying a spell at Udinese, is undoubtedly the best English coach in the business and he will relish the prospect of taking on Roma’s Claudio Ranieri again.
The Cottagers have improved immeasurably under Hodgson, who has transformed relegation shoo-ins into European contenders. The 62-year-old has made the west Londoners hard to beat, their last loss a narrow 1-0 defeat to Arsenal seven matches ago.
And Saturday’s 3-1 win over Liverpool was neither a fluke, nor a straightforward case of Rafa Benitez self-combusting.
Since drawing with Roma, Fulham have scored five goals against Manchester City and the Reds – and all this without Damien Duff, Danny Murphy, Andy Johnson and Simon Davies.
Roma, meanwhile, are enduring a desperate season. The Giallorossi may have beaten Bologna at the weekend but their recent loss to Livorno did little to appease supporters furiously protesting against the club’s indebted owners.
Crucially, Roma are missing their captain Francesco Totti, who has had to undergo yet another knee operation. Without their inspirational figurehead and playmaker last year’s Champions League hopefuls have slumped to 14th place in Serie A.
Though Fulham are tempting value at 5.7 to pile more misery on the Giallorossi they have only beaten Portsmouth on their travels so far this season, while Roma have won their last six home matches in Europe.
At 4.0 the draw is more appealing and another 1-1 scoreline can be snapped up at 8.0.