As he prepares Hamburger SV for the visit of Fulham FC, Bruno Labbadia has told his players not to spurn the "great" opportunity they have of reaching the showpiece at their own stadium.
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Bruno Labbadia has urged his Hamburger SV side to seize their chance as they prepare to welcome Fulham FC in the last four of the UEFA Europa League with a place in the final at their own stadium at stake.
While impressed by Fulham's run to the semi-finals, the coach's message was clear as he rallied his side ahead of the first leg at the Hamburg Arena. "We are facing very strong opponents who are disciplined and very organised," he said. "They beat Juventus 4-1 so we know they can score, but our aim is to reach the final. It is a great chance for every player, for the team and the club."
With striker Mladen Petrić injured, the onus will fall on Ruud van Nistelrooy to provide the firepower for HSV and the Dutchman will be relishing the prospect of renewing acquantainces with the London club. He scored ten goals in nine games against them while at Manchester United FC and Labbadia will want more of the same on Thursday.
"Ruud van Nistelrooy's presence on the pitch is important for us, he can score goals and everyone knows that," he said. "Fulham will play defensively with only one striker so we have to be very patient and pass the ball around."
Unlike Fulham, Hamburg are no strangers to the big occasion in Europe. While the 1983 European Champion Clubs' Cup winners are contesting their ninth semi-final in a major UEFA competition, including last year's UEFA Cup reverse at this stage, Fulham are through to their first.
Not that Roy Hodgson's side are wet behind the ears. This is their 17th game of this UEFA Europa League campaign and having already eliminated holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus and German champions VfL Wolfsburg in the knockout stages, they will not overawed by the occasion, or the 17-hour coach journey to Hamburg.
"Of course, it's not the ideal situation before an important match but I'm sure we'll perform well," said the Fulham manager, who has a fully-fit squad from which to pick, of the trip. "The match is difficult and Hamburg are top-class opponents. German teams have a great history in Europe and have always been successful. It's always a very, very tough game against them."