Game Preview - RNK Split (h)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Simon Davies of Fulham takes a corner kick during the UEFA Europa League qualifying match between Fulham and NSI Runavik at Craven Cottage on June 30, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

In a week of transfer-related-surrealism, in which Bobby Zamora is made out to be much the equivalent of Peter Crouch and David Trezeguet is considered approachable, perhaps it would be fitting for RNK Split to deal us a most surprising blow and defeat us on our own vanquishing turf, thus knocking us out of the competition we now crave so badly to conquer. 

In fact, such a suggestion could be considered detriment to our opponents, as on current form, a home defeat would be anything but surreal. Split impressed, albeit sporadically, in their home country of Croatia whilst Fulham dwindled in the heat.

It would be unfair to cast aspersions on our very own at such an early stage, however - the 0-0 draw being disappointing but not wholly negative - and Thursday evening's rematch gives Martin Jol the most perfect of opportunities to jab back at the hapless ESPN commentary team of last week, whom considered every Fulham touch of the ball as either wasteful or 'of Championship quality'. If they're to be believed, Split should cruise through this second leg without hesitation. 

The first leg, in the Hrvatskih Vitezova Stadium, provided a spectacle more of hard graft and fatigue than the expected mixture of fluent Croatian football and the rampant displays encouraged by Martin Jol and all his teams. RNK were solid but penetrable, crisp yet novice and decent but otherwise bland. Fulham, however, were rarely superior.

Take into account conditions, experience and fitness, though, and the Cottagers can be considered to have taken a respectable draw from Eastern Europe and most will predict Premier League quality to shine through in England and a play-off tie will apprehensively await us.

Little injury news has reached us from the Croatian camp, but the talk previous to last week's match would suggest that Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele are available for selection for Fulham, while our new signing Jon Arne Riise's younger brother Bjorn, is expected to be absent for around a month after picking up an injury during last Thursday's warm-down. Steve Sidwell is suspended. 

The question will still remain, however, despite their return, whether Jol will select Dembele or Dempsey given the lack of match practice offered by the pair. Jol is known to like Dembele but may be unwilling to risk him immediately.

Score prediction: Fulham 2 - 0 RNK Split

Predicted line-up: Schwarzer; Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird; Briggs, Murphy, Kasami, Duff; Zamora, Johnson

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