Fulham may be playing their arch-rivals Chelsea this week in the Premier League, but Cottagers’ manager Roy Hodgson is rooting for the Blues to beat Barcelona on Wednesday and reach the Champions League final, for the sake of English football.
Few Fulham fans would wish their wealthy and glamorous neighbours Chelsea anything but ill-fortune; but that does not concern urbane tactician Hodgson, who wants Guus Hiddink’s side to dispose of Barca and make another positive statement for the strength of the Premier League.
Fulham’s trip to Stamford Bridge falls in the middle of Chelsea’s two-legged Champions League semi-final against Spain’s Primera Division leaders, with the tie poised at 0-0 after the first leg. And Fulham are themselves seventh, occupying the last Europa League qualification berth.
“Of course I want Chelsea to win,” Hodgson was quoted as saying on sport.co.uk. “Maybe the Fulham fans wouldn’t but first and foremost I am an English football fan.
“I have no connection with Barcelona and no sympathy for them at all. I respect them very much and as a football fan I love to see them play.
“But if there’s going to be a result between Chelsea and Barcelona there’s only one team I want to see win and that’s Chelsea.”
Hodgson, though, is not sure what Chelsea side Fulham will be up against this weekend, or whether Hiddink will be tempted to rest any players ahead of the Barca return game.
“I really don’t know what to expect [Chelsea’s team to be],” said Hodgson. “This match is sandwiched between two Champions League semi-finals, and there’s a chance the Chelsea management will look at that game and decide to prioritise.
“They could say that they don’t want someone to play three games in seven days and give them a rest.
“But on the other hand, Chelsea are still in with a very serious shout of winning the Premier League, and could say they can’t afford to slip up, they have to win all their remaining games and do that with their best players.
“I have no idea which of those two scenarios is the right one for this match – the only person who can answer that is Guus Hiddink.”
Graham Lister, Goal.com