Fulham manager Roy Hodgson believes success in the Europa League could be key to ensuring his side's Barclays Premier League survival.
Fulham earned a creditable 1-0 win over Swiss side FC Basle on Thursday to move them to the top of Europa League Group B. The Cottagers' strong start in Europe has not been mirrored by their league form, which has seen them struggle to just two wins - one of them against bottom side Portsmouth.
"We are pleased with how our European campaign is going," said Hodgson, who takes his side to Upton Park to face West Ham on Sunday.
"We knew that this period would impact to a certain extent on our Premier League form and we have had to learn with these situations where we are playing a lot more football and people are being thrown into more games.
"If we can come through it as one of the top two teams in the group, that will make us a lot stronger come January and that might be a time when we need to come strong because that might be the time when the league starts to take shape."
Fulham could end Sunday in 19th position if they lose to Gianfranco Zola's side, who have also made a slow start to the season.
Hodgson's hopes of victory will be boosted by the return of several key players who were rested for the win over Basle.
He hopes to have John Pantsil, Dickson Etuhu, Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes fit for the match after resting the quartet for the Basle win.
Regardless of the result on Sunday, the 62-year-old believes both West Ham and Fulham will be good enough to avoid the drop at the end of the season.
"I have great confidence within ourselves that over the course of 38 games we will get the points necessary," he said.
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