Cottagers suffer further AJ setback

BY foxsports • December 15, 2009

Johnson, 28, had been poised to make his comeback from a groin injury after a 12-match absence as Fulham chase the victory in Switzerland that would secure them qualification for the knock-out stages. But the England striker did not travel with the rest of the squad on Tuesday after suffering a reaction in training and he remains doubtful for Saturday's Premier League clash with Manchester United. Johnson underwent an exploratory operation at the end of last month and Fulham manager Roy Hodgson admitted the club need to be more cautious in how they handle his return to action. "We were hoping to have Andy Johnson with us but it is not possible. He trained yesterday but felt a problem and we had to take him out of our plans," Hodgson said, before putting his squad through their final paces in gentle snow at St Jakob-Park. "We are probably being too optimistic. He was so anxious himself to get back into the fray and we sometimes go along with it. "It was a movement that caused him a sharp pain. We took the decision not to risk him and to leave him back for treatment and possibly training back home. "I am hoping it was to do with the scar tissue following his recent operation rather than a major problem. "If he is pain free he will be fit enough and he will play a part in the game (against Manchester United). We will see." Although Fulham are one victory away from a place in the last 32 - where they would join the likes of Champions League drop-outs Liverpool - the Manchester United fixture is of greater concern to Hodgson. The Fulham boss has prioritised the league all campaign and declared earlier this week his strongest XI would be held back for the United encounter. Nevertheless, Hodgson has been frustrated by the UEFA rules that have forced him to stick by the initial 21-man squad he named back in August, despite injuries to key players in Johnson, Simon Davies and Diomansy Kamara. On top of that, Chris Baird, Paul Konchesky and Erik Nevland are all suspended on Wednesday night. "I am very pleased with the performances in Europe," said Hodgson. "The matches against Roma didn't go our way and we suffered badly at the hands of refereeing decisions. We have done our best to get over the injury situation. "It has given players on the fringe a chance to show what they can do and we have become stronger as a group and stronger as a football club as a result of that. "We are one defeat from 10 in the league. It is nice to be going into the last game against a good European team knowing if we win we can go through." Fulham do welcome Danny Murphy, a former winner of this competition with Liverpool in its former guise as the UEFA Cup, and Dickson Etuhu back into the team. While Fulham may have one eye on Manchester United, Basle manager Torsten Fink insisted victory tomorrow night means everything to his men. The Swiss league heads into a two-month winter break after the European clash and Fink has called for one final effort from his team, who are unbeaten at home in Europe this season and need only a point to reach the last 32. "Basle are in a very good position. We have had a great first half of the year behind us. We want to continue in the Europa League so we need a good result," said the former Bayern Munich midfielder, who took over as manager from Christian Gross during the summer. "Fulham are a team on form. Roy Hodgson has said the Premier League is more important to him - this is our last game of the year before the league rests and so we look at it as being a very important game." Fink also has injury worries, though, with goalkeeper David Costanzo, defenders Francois Marque and Cagdas Atan, and midfielders Scott Chipperfield and Antonio Da Silva all doubtful.

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