Hughes open to Europa League spot
Fulham manager Mark Hughes maintains the Cottagers will be "delighted" if they get into Europe next season through UEFA's Respect Fair Play ranking, despite the prospect of playing qualifiers in June.
UEFA on Monday announced three countries have earned additional spots in the Europa League next season - Norway, who finished top of the fair play table, followed by England and Sweden.
Fulham look the most likely beneficiaries as they are in second spot in the Barclays Premier League's fair play table behind Chelsea, who have already qualified for the Champions League, with one match remaining. "If we get into the competition, we will be delighted and we will try and progress as far as we can," Hughes told the club's official website.
The Cottagers - who host Arsenal on Sunday - reached the final of the Europa League last season under Roy Hodgson.
Hughes, appointed in July after Hodgson left for Liverpool, would relish the opportunity of another crack at Europe, having guided Manchester City to the quarter-finals of the 2009 UEFA Cup.
He added: "I think we are very close, but a lot of things have to fall into place before we can say we are playing in Europe next season, but if we are, we will give it a go. We should embrace it, and if we are in it, we will try our best to be successful."
"It is a difficult competition to negotiate because of the time frame and the amount of games you have to play. If you want to progress you have to come back very early and start playing football almost immediately when you come back."
Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes played in last season's Europa League final against Atletico Madrid, which the English side lost 2-1 in Hamburg. The 31-year-old defender would relish another crack at the competition, even if it means an early return to pre-season training.
"To play in Europe again would be a massive thing - the whole European experience was fantastic," he said.
"Last time pre-season was basically competitive Europa League games and we came back very early. We approached every game like a Premier League game and the further we went in the competition the more the belief grew, and then we found ourselves in the final."
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