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Fulham in pole position for Euro spot

last updated Monday 16th May 2011, 8:52 PM
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
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Fulham are in pole position to gain a place in Europe next season through UEFA's Respect Fair Play ranking.

UEFA have announced that three countries have earned the fair play spots in the Europa League next season - Norway, who finished top of the table, followed by England and Sweden.

Mark Hughes' side look the most likely beneficiaries for the English berth - they are in second spot in the Premier League's fair play tablebehind Chelsea, who have already qualified for the Champions League, with one match to go.

Fulham's nearest challengers are Tottenham Hotspur, who could possibly snatch the European place if they finish in sixth spot, missing out on automatic Europa League qualification, and above the Cottagers in the final fair play table.

Fulham are the only team not to have had a player sent off in the league this season.

The Republic of Ireland finished in seventh place in UEFA's rankings, Scotland 18th, Northern Ireland 24th and Wales 40th.

UEFA said in a statement: "The standings, which cover all matches played in UEFA competition at club and national-team levels from 1 May 2010 to 30 April 2011, take into account assessments made by official UEFA delegates on criteria such as positive play, respect for the opposition, respect for the referee, behaviour of the crowd and of team officials, as well as cautions and dismissals.

"Norway came out on top in the rankings, which only contain sides that have played 34 or more UEFA games in the time period. The Football Association of Norway therefore receives an extra place in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League, which will also feature an additional club each from England and Sweden after they finished second and third in the table."

However Fulham boss Mark Hughes fears competing in the Europa League qualifiers will wreck their new season preparations.

Should they qualify, Hughes will have just four days between the players returning from their summer break and the first Europa League qualifying clash.

Hughes said: "We've got plenty of pre-season plans but can't commit to them.

"We can hold certain things for a time but the longer it goes on, we might lose the opportunities.

"We will wait and see. We'll have to move quickly."

Source Premier League
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