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HSV in flux as Fulham approach 'finest hour'

Roy Hodgson is not sure Hamburger SV's coaching change will play into Fulham FC's hands as they approach the second leg of the semi-final in what is already a historic campaign for his side.

HSV in flux as Fulham approach 'finest hour'
HSV in flux as Fulham approach 'finest hour' ©UEFA.com

After a goalless first leg Fulham FC stand on the brink of reaching the UEFA Europa League final in only their second continental campaign – standing in their way are a Hamburger SV side seeking calm amid an internal storm.

A 5-1 defeat by TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Sunday spelt the end for Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia with his side just 90 minutes from a European final at their own stadium. Assistant Ricardo Moniz has taken temporary charge but Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is not so sure the upheaval will favour his side.

"Some say its an advantage to us; some say it's an advantage to them," Hodgson said. "When you reach a game at this level, coupled with the quality and experience of the Hamburg players, I think they will be more than capable of giving a very good performance, whoever the manager happens to be. The assistant has stepped into the breach so there's no vast change of style. I'm expecting the same Hamburg we met a week ago."

One difference from last Thursday could be the absence of a man with six goals in Fulham's campaign, striker Bobby Zamora, who faces a late fitness test on an Achilles injury that forced him to miss Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Everton. "He's much improved and did some work today with the physio," Hodgson said. "We just have to wait until tomorrow to make a decision whether he can or can't play."

Moniz faces a similar dilemma over Dennis Aogo, the versatile defender left behind in Germany after picking up a virus. "If Dennis decides to come we have a plane scheduled so he can be here for 1pm," explained Moniz, who is already shorn of suspended midfielder Piotr Trochowski while Tunay Torun faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after the 20-year-old damaged his knee in training last Friday. "We have many options at left-back though.

"Things have been a bit hectic over the past few days and we had to switch focus," Moniz added. "It's an unbelievable motivation [to have the final at our stadium] but if the players put too much pressure on themselves it's not a good thing. My task is to give them confidence. Last year we had similar situation against Galatasaray [and won the round of 16 tie 4-3 on aggregate] so we know what it's all about."

Fulham do not have the benefit of such experience, yet Hodgson believes his side have already written themselves into club legend. "It's a finest hour; whatever happens it's a finest hour," he said. "We're all as determined as we possibly can not to fail at this final stage and take the ultimate step rather than go out as gallant losers in the semi-final."