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FK Vetra ready for Fulham clash

last updated Wednesday 29th July 2009, 1:30 PM

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
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Lithuania's sole survivors in European competition this season, FK Vëtra have eliminated CS Grevenmacher and HJK Helsinki to reach the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round, and now have England's Fulham FC in their sights.

Founded 13 years ago, Vëtra have risen from the fourth tier of Lithuanian football to their current position of second in the A Lyga, with every hope of a maiden league title. They proved their worth against HJK, overturning a 1-0 first-leg deficit to prevail 3-2 on aggregate, and Liubðys told uefa.com: "We really wanted to make it through and play against Fulham. After HJK scored an early goal, they thought the work was done, but we showed great fighting spirit and punished their overconfidence."

Fulham, under the experienced Roy Hodgson, finished seventh in England last season, beating Arsenal FC and Manchester United FC in the process. Liubðys knows his players need little incentive to give their all in Vilnius on Thursday against the London side, who are yet to begin their domestic season. "It is probably the only chance many of our players will get to take on a Premier League club," the 51-year-old said. "So I will not have to motivate my players. I believe we can prove our worth in footballing terms against Fulham."

Since joining the Lithuanian top flight in 2003, Vëtra have secured three third-place finishes and qualified for Europe every year; four UEFA Intertoto Cup campaigns followed by a UEFA Cup bow last season. This term they lie second, two points behind leaders FK Sûduva with a game in hand, top scoring with 34 goals in 14 games. Liubðys identifies team loyalty as the key to their consistency.

"I would like to note the devotion of the players and all the staff at the club," Liubsys said. "In hard times the players did not scatter. The financial crisis has hit Lithuanian clubs hard. Vëtra, unfortunately, are no exception. We had a very consistent first half of the league campaign with no big slumps. Our squad has stabilised and gained balance. We also brought in Cameroonian Bertrand Ngapounou and Pole Janusz Bucholc during the league break."

However, he is keen not to get carried away with domestic matters ahead of more pressing European duties. "Before the season our aim was to finish in the top three and we did not set any other tasks," Liubðys added, "but we will see what will be at the end of the season. Now we are thinking only about the upcoming matches against Fulham."

Source Kestutis Gimbutas at UEFA
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