Fulham - Priorities?
Suppose for a minute that you're Roy Hodgson!
Just under a week ago, you lost the home advantage in your FA Cup quarter-final match versus Tottenham Hotspur with a 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage.
Thursday night, you lost the first leg of your final sixteen match-up in the Europa League to Italian giants, Juventus, by a score of 3-1 in Turin.
The two matches represent your fifteenth and sixteenth fixtures in all competitions since the beginning of the year. Based on the team's performance versus Juventus, you have to consider that fatigue may be creeping into the squad.
Unfortunately, there's no rest for the weary.
Not only do you have the return leg against Juventus in London and the FA Cup quarter-final replay at White Hart Lane for which to prepare, but in addition you have two Premier League fixtures to navigate - Manchester United at Old Trafford and Manchester City at Craven Cottage.
Four fixtures versus high-level competition in an eleven day span. You're facing a disadvantage in both the FA Cup and the Europa League, have two difficult League fixtures mixed in and your injury-riddled squad is showing the effects of extensive travel and a two match per week schedule.
Surely, something must give, so how do you prioritize?
The League match at Old Trafford will inarguably be the most difficult from which to gain a result. Other than the stature of the opponents, the fixture is not of major significance. Your squad's relatively solid position in the League allows you to keep the focus on the other competitions.
Even with a massive effort, leaving Manchester with even a single point will be a tall order. You have it all to do to progress in the Europa League. Yes, it's a home match, and yes, you have an away goal, but surely Juventus will simply park the bus in front of goal and focus on defending.
A 2-0 victory is the minimum required for progression. It certainly can be achieved, but your squad will need to play a near perfect match to see it done.
Back to the League now with a visit from high-flying Manchester City. Your squad is solid at home. City can be a little schizophrenic on the road. Yes, they ended the month of February with an outstanding performance at Chelsea, but they began the month with a poor performance (and a loss) at Hull City. Unlike the Manchester United match, three points is a real possibility.
Finally, you travel to White Hart Lane for the Tottenham FA Cup replay. Of the four matches, surely this is the most important. A win would see your squad playing in the semi-final against Portsmouth, with a real chance to reach the final. The thought of Fulham winning the FA Cup is irresistible!
Of course, winning at White Hart Lane against a squad vying for Champions League football is daunting. So, there you have it. Four matches in three competitions.
Do you go for it in all and potentially exhaust the squad, which may result in poor results for all four?
Do you rely on your solid League position and sacrifice one or both League fixtures, and eye FA Cup and Europa League glory?
Do you declare your final-sixteen status in Europa League enough of an achievement in itself and capitulate to Juventus to focus on the domestic competitions?
Do you stick to your oft-spoken rhetoric that the League is the priority and accept that the disadvantages faced in the Europa League and FA Cup are two difficult to overcome?
Or, finally, do you declare the significance of the FA Cup to be without equal and sacrifice Europa League and the two League fixtures, and focus on an improbable, but potentially famous victory in North London?
So, Roy what do you do?