Alberto Zaccheroni said Juventus are "growing by the day" but warned they will need to be wary of a Fulham FC side reaching new heights under their "wise and experienced coach" Roy Hodgson.
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Alberto Zaccheroni believes Juventus are hitting form at the right time as they prepare to meet Fulham FC in the first leg of their round of 16 UEFA Europa League tie.
Juve have won four and drawn three of their eight games since Zaccheroni replaced Ciro Ferrara in January and come into the match buoyed by their weekend win at ACF Fiorentina. "After Saturday's game we are full of confidence," the coach said. "The squad has been growing by the day since my arrival and we're also getting some injured players back. If we show the same character as in the last game, we can be a match for anyone."
Felipe Melo is suspended, Gianluigi Buffon, Amauri and Giorgio Chiellini all have thigh injuries and Claudio Marchisio is doubtful because of a throat infection, but Mauro Camoranesi and Vincenzo Iaquinta have returned to fitness and could start. Having beaten AFC Ajax in the previous round Juventus are aiming high, but Zaccheroni sounded a word of caution. "We know Fulham are tough," he said. "Moreover, on the Fulham bench sits Roy Hodgson, a wise man and an experienced coach. His teams are always well organised and play good football."
Fulham pulled off one of the shocks of the round of 32 when they knocked out holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk but will be underdogs again against the two-time European champions. However, the 62-year-old Hodgson, who led FC Internazionale Milano to the UEFA Cup final in 1997, is just honoured to have a chance to face La Vecchia Signora.
"We are really happy to be here and for us it is a huge reward to play against a team like Juventus," said the Fulham manager, who will be without the suspended Danny Murphy while Clint Dempsey and John Pantsil miss out with knee injuries and Andrew Johnson is a long-term absentee. "Luckily, we have had some good results in the Premier League in the last few weeks, so we can focus on Europe without worrying about our league position. We will do our best to continue our fantastic adventure."