With Hamburg in turmoil ahead of tonight’s Europa League semi final second leg, Dean Mears believes Fulham’s tag as favourites may be their downfall.
Fulham’s Europe League campaign has been a fairy tale story, the underdog against all odds beating giants like Juventus, Wolfsburg, Roma and Holders Shakhtar Donetsk. They travelled to Hamburg in a similar position with not many people giving them a chance, however they managed another shock by returning from Germany with a 0-0 draw. But when they host Hamburg in the return leg, they face a team in crisis. No manager and coming to Craven Cottage on the back of a 5-1 thrashing in the league. Fulham must be seen as favourites. They haven’t been seen as this at any stage of their campaign, and it may be their downfall.
Not even the biggest Fulham fan gave them a chance when Juventus came to town, 3-1 down from the first leg, and then going a goal down after only 10 minutes. Yet something magical happened, something that can never be explained, yet will live in the memory of every Fulham fan for years to come. They manage to score four goals and knock out the Old Lady from Turin. The underdogs did it.
Then came holders Shakhtar Donetsk, again not even a sniff of a Fulham victory, yet again they proved everybody wrong maybe even themselves wrong, by beating them 2-1 at the Cottage and then managing to earn a 1-1 draw in the return leg. Then came the quarter final, Fulham were further than they ever imagined and could have held their heads high if they were knocked out at this stage. Although nobody had told Roy Hodgson and England hopeful Bobby Zamora, and they beat Wolfsburg in both games. The holders of the German Bundesliga beaten twice by little Fulham, the underdogs had prevailed again.
Fulham in the Europa league semis, over their heads and out of their depth, or are they? They clearly deserve to be where they are, and now they face a German team in crisis. Are they favourites to be in the final back at Hamburg in May? If Fulham had been knocked out at any stage of this year’s Europe League it would be been a hugely respectable effort from Hodgson and his merry men. Yet now they face a manager-less team and a team with the same level of confidence as Stoke after their 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Fulham’s next door neighbours Chelsea.
They probably should beat Hamburg, especially at home. Having said that, Fulham have never been in this position and never had this sort of pressure on them, and this could be the architect of their downfall.
Hopefully not though and Fulham will go on and beat Liverpool in the final.