Roy Hodgson sees no reason why Danny Murphy cannot continue to play at the top level for many seasons - but warned against expecting the Fulham captain to "hit the ground running" on his return to action from a knee injury against CSKA Sofia on Thursday.

The 32-year-old former Liverpool midfielder is set to feature for the first time since mid-October as the Cottagers look to keep alive hopes of qualifying from the Europa League group stages.

Hodgson declared: "He has been excellent in every respect. Danny has been a very good captain, as well as a great playmaker, his passing is good and he helps the game flow."

The Fulham manager added: "I can see him going on for a good few more years. It is just a question of how he can keep himself away from injury.

"His fitness levels will remain constant for the next few years: the worry is what effect injuries have.

"But if, touch wood, he stays clear of that he can play for a long time."

Murphy's return is a welcome boost for the Cottagers, who have Erik Nevland, Paul Konchesky and Jonathan Greening all suspended, while the likes of Eddie Johnson, Seol Ki-Hyeon and Kagisho Dikgacoi are not eligible.

Hodgson, though, accepted it would be wrong to expect an immediate impact against the Bulgarians.

"The first thing Danny has to do is to get back to match fitness," said the Fulham manager. "He won't come straight back and hit the ground running, he needs the match practice.

"Whether he plays on Sunday depends on how he does against Sofia - I have other options for the Sunderland game, which I can't use on Thursday. But Danny is looking forward to it. He is mechanically fit and wants to get back in the saddle."

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Topics:
Europa League
Sunderland
Jonathan Greening
Fulham
Eddie Johnson
Football
Paul Konchesky
Premier League
Liverpool