Hughes braced for Europa crusade

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Fulham defender Aaron Hughes is relishing the prospect of playing in his homeland tonight, with the Cottagers set to face Crusaders in the Europa League second round qualifier.

Martin Jol's side made a winning start to the campaign with a comfortable 3-0 aggregate victory over NSI Runavik in the Faroe Islands, and the former Ajax boss is set to stick with his policy of playing a strong side in these early stages of the competition.

Hughes, a senior Northern Ireland international, will be hoping to regain his place in the side after missing out on the second leg of the previous tie, and has personal memories of a previous trip to the Crusaders' home ground.

“I have played here [at Seaview] once before when I was about thirteen or fourteen years of age at schoolboy level. It’s good to come back and it’s a competitive game, which is good for everyone," Hughes told the media ahead of tonight's clash.


“I’ve been part of teams when you’re the underdog so I know the mindset in these games – flip that around and we’re well aware of what the Crusaders want to do. Hopefully it will be another step for us along another long road in Europe.

Fulham are heavy favourites for the clash after taking their place in the competition through the Fair Play route, but Hughes knows the potential task at hand, and insists the Cottagers will not be taking their lesser-fancied opponents lightly after team briefings on the opposition.

“The one thing about our Club is we’re well prepared and we never take any team for granted, whether it’s a pre-season game or the Europa League Final. We treat every game in the same manner. Our scouts have been down here [to watch the Crusaders] a couple of times and we’ve been well briefed," he continued.

“I think that’s why we’ve had the success we’ve had over the past couple of years – we’re well prepared and we’ve got a good bunch of lads that take it all on board. We’ve always remained very grounded.”

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