DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 19, 2010
Clint Dempsey and the Cottagers have their path for the final stages of the Europa League set, and now await an April Fool's Day visit from Bundesliga Champions Wolfsburg to kick off their quarterfinal draw.
Dempsey's wonder goal capped off perhaps the most shocking upset in European competition this season, giving Fulham their place in April's quarterfinals over Italian powerhouses Juventus.
Friday's draw for the final two knockout rounds of the competition ahead of the May 12 final in Hamburg has given them perhaps the least daunting road to what would be a historic final for the club.
Their quarterfinal opponents are the reigning German champions VfL Wolfsburg, who were finally able to overcome their Russian counterparts Rubin Kazan in overtime on Thursday evening.
While also fighting their way through the European deepest run in team history, the Germans have been less than a juggernaut in domestic competition, where they have struggled to their current eighth-place standing, meaning that hoisting the Coupe UEFA trophy in May is likely their only route back to continental competition next season.
Even with the prospect of needing his defense to contain Bosnian danger-men Edin Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic, Fulham coach Roy Hodgson will certainly be thrilled to be seeing his increasingly impressive stable of attackers go up against one of the worst defenses in Germany.
The first leg of the series is an April 1 visit by Wolfsburg to Craven Cottage, with the return leg one week later in the Volkswagen Arena.
Should Fulham pass this hurdle, they will face the winner between Hamburg SV and former Oguchi Onyewu employers Standard Liege in the semifinal round in late-April.
The 2010 Europa League Final will then be played on May 12 in Hamburg's Nordbank Arena.
Europa League Quarterfinal Draw
(team listed on left hosts first leg)
Fulham - VfL Wolfsburg
Hamburg SV - Standard Liege
Valencia CF - Atletico Madrid
SL Benfica - Liverpool