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By ESPN Staff

Hodgson still hopeful of Europa League place

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has not given up on qualifying for the Europa Cup next season, despite his side's defeat to west London neighbours Chelsea.

Hodgson is eager to secure a place in the new competition - something they would achieve should they manage to finish seventh - but he insists that a place in the top 10 would also provide enormous satisfaction following last season's relegation scrap.

Fulham were behind inside 50 seconds against Chelsea with a goal from Nicolas Anelka.

Norwegian striker Erik Nevland levelled for the Cottagers just four minutes later but Florent Malouda restored Chelsea's advantage in the 10th minute and Didier Drogba finished off Hodgson's side with a third in the second half.

The defeat allowed Manchester City and West Ham to leapfrog them in the Barclays Premier League but Hodgson is adamant a top-10 finish would still be good enough.

''For me, I have had a goal for the last few weeks of finishing in the top 10 and I shall retain that,'' said Hodgson. ''If we're 10th, I will be happy, if we finish 9th, 8th or 7th I will be a darned sight happier.

''Six points could get you in there (Seventh), but that's a tough ask. We'd have to average two points a game for the rest of the season and we haven't been doing that all season.

''We'll do our best to get it but we're playing Aston Villa and Everton who are no pushovers.

''We want to finish as high as we can - the highest we can finish is seventh but we have to play much better than we did against Chelsea and take a lot of points in the last three games.

''I'm reducing things to a simplistic form but that's how we see it.''

If Fulham do manage to clinch the coveted seventh spot and make it into Europe, Hodgson is determined not to be panicked into reinforcing his squad for the sake of it.

''We don't know what changes we will be able to make, what reinforcements we can make,'' added Hodgson. ''But we are entitled, if we get into Europe, to adopt any attitude we want.

''We don't have to start panicking and start doing things differently to how we would have done otherwise. We may have to accept, if Fulham are not going to get the squad to compete on two fronts, that we may have to go out of Europe.''

Fulham had no answer to Chelsea's fluidity in midfield or the potency of their attack and Hodgson was full of admiration for Guus Hiddink's men.

''They're a fine passing team,'' said Hodgson. ''The quality of their passing and movement was excellent, the touch of their front players was excellent.

''We played against a good team. I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't play better but the reason we lost was because we were playing one of Europe's top teams, and one who played like it as well.

''We did our best to combat it and keep our shape but we knew it wasn't going to be easy because they're one of the best teams in Europe.''

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