Fulham FC have thrilled fans and neutrals alike in Europe this season, and midfielder Simon Davies says the players are now "really looking forward to the challenge" of Wednesday's final.
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Fulham FC have provided plenty of entertainment en route to the UEFA Europa League final and midfielder Simon Davies hopes they can serve up another occasion to remember during Wednesday's meeting with Club Atlético de Madrid.
This may be only the London side's second ever European campaign, but they have regaled fans with a lengthy list of memorable nights on their path towards the Hamburg showpiece. None was more thrilling than the 4-1 comeback win against Juventus in their round of 16 decider, but Roy Hodgson's men also claimed the notable scalps of UEFA Cup holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk and German champions VfL Wolfsburg, before another superb fightback to down Hamburger SV in the last four.
"Everyone's really looking forward to the challenge," said Davies, who summed up the predominant mood in the Fulham camp as "excitement". "We've worked hard enough to get here, so we're really going to go and enjoy it – and just keep playing our game. Hopefully that will take us one step further."
While the Craven Cottage side have undoubtedly given fans plenty to cheer this term, the Welsh international insisted that it has been a reciprocal process. "The European nights have been amazing since the Juventus game, when they got behind us when we really needed them to – and obviously we responded to get back in the game and win it, which was fantastic," he said. "I think it's just created that excitement from then, and every time we've played at the Cottage since it has been a great occasion."
He and his team-mates will now be pulling for similar levels of support at the Hamburg Arena, with the club's allocation sold out. Likewise, Davies hopes that Fulham's tactical approach will again serve them well, their tidy, passing style seemingly suited to European nights. "We like to keep the ball on the floor," he explained. "We like to play [the right way] and keep compact. Playing in Europe, you see teams that play very similarly to ourselves, so both teams tend to get a lot of the ball. And, of course, having got to the final you can say it's definitely suited us this year."
Their experiences over the campaign will also have taught them to stay calm should Atlético take the lead, with much of that composure emanating from manager Hodgson. The well-travelled 62-year-old will be overseeing his second European final after his FC Internazionale Milano side lost the 1996/97 UEFA Cup final to FC Schalke 04 on penalties, and it was his guidance that helped Fulham advance this far after falling behind in their semi-final second leg against HSV.
"At half-time, the manager just said to us: 'Just keep playing your game', because he felt we were playing well enough," said Davies. "There were no panic stations; it was just a case of going out there and continuing to play the way he believes we can. And that's what we did, really. We kept trying to pass the ball around and we got our goals in the end."