Hangeland return boosts Fulham

  • Last Updated: January 15 2014, 8:31 GMT

Rene Meulensteen hopes fit-again captain Brede Hangeland can lead a defensive revival for Fulham.

Brede Hangeland: Has boosted Fulham's defence
Brede Hangeland: Has boosted Fulham's defence

Head coach Meulensteen backed Fulham to tighten up without the ball now Norway centre back Hangeland has returned to action.

The 32-year-old missed three months with sciatic nerve trouble that was only solved by back surgery in December.

Hangeland impressed in Fulham's 3-0 FA Cup third-round replay victory over Norwich at Craven Cottage.

And Meulensteen hopes his talismanic skipper can shore up Fulham's defence in Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash at Arsenal.

"It's a very big boost, he's done ever so well after his surgery, training very hard and working very hard to get back," said Meulensteen.

"Sunderland was a bit too early that's why we pushed him for this game, and it's great to see that he came through the 90 minutes so well.

"It's definitely a big boost for us, he's so calm on the ball.

"I wouldn't see why he couldn't play at the weekend, he's back now, we'll have to look at it. Arsenal is a different kettle of fish so we'll have to wait and see.

"We'll review this game with Brede, see how he feels and go from there."

Fulham have leaked more goals than any other Premier League team this term, their tally spiralling to 46 after Saturday's 4-1 home drubbing at the hands of Sunderland.

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Meulensteen said a clean sheet against Norwich was always his chief target for Tuesday's third-round replay.

The former Manchester United coach is happy with his forward options and admits Fulham will only pull away from the relegation zone by becoming far stingier without the ball.

Darren Bent, Ashkan Dejagah and Steve Sidwell converted Fulham's dominance into victory against Norwich.

Fulham will make the trip to Sheffield United for the fourth round, with Meulensteen most impressed with his side shutting out Norwich.

"My biggest thing was the clean sheet," said Meulensteen.

"I keep saying that to the players, and keep reassuring them, that if we keep putting clean sheets on the board then we'll climb the table because we've got plenty enough quality to keep creating chances and score goals.

"We've got to keep putting each result in the right perspective, and highlight why each result has come about.

"On Saturday we were dominating and controlling and we should have been in front.

"We conceded from set plays and that's got to be addressed.

"Our defensive record is not good and needs to be improved upon.

"That's why we very clearly set out to make sure we came off with a clean sheet (against Norwich).

"And that's why I think most of the game apart from five minutes in the second half, overall from that we were in pretty good defensive shape, and we're on the right way."

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