This weekend’s game with Sunderland looks as though it has come too early for Mahamadou Diarra, Manager Martin Jol said in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon.
The Mali midfielder missed last Saturday’s draw with Arsenal after suffering a knee problem and Jol admits it is unlikely we’ll be seeing him at the Cottage on Sunday.
“Most of the players are fine but Diarra is injured and I don’t think he will make it,” Jol explained. “He’s a doubt, a big doubt.
“Kieran Richardson’s got a hamstring problem and he will be out for another 10 days and then he will start training again. Simon Davies, of course, after his operation is still out for months and Chris Baird is suspended.
“The only other thing is [Mickael] Tavares took a little knock on his hamstring when he played for the Reserves so I have to come up with a solution and we will do that, of course.”
The Black Cats arrive in SW6 with just one win to their name so far this season, but our Manager anticipates a tricky test against Martin O’Neill’s disciplined side.
“Sunderland have conceded half the goals we’ve conceded,” he said. “They’ve had six draws; four draws away from home in six games so it’s not an easy match.
“They conceded less goals than almost any other team in the league probably so they are well organised and they’ve got players like [James] McClean, [Steven] Fletcher, [Stephane] Sessegnon – who had a great season last year – and [Adam] Johnson who is one of the bigger talents in England. So up front they have got quality, so it won’t be a walkover.
“We have to be aware of the fact that they can hurt any team, especially away from home, because although they didn’t pick up as many points as they would have liked, four points out of six games is not great but it’s not bad either.
"Let's not forget either that they have played a game less than almost every other team so perhaps they are in a false position in the league. It will be a difficult game, that's for sure."
While the Whites have won plenty of plaudits for our attacking style of play this season, too many goals have been shipped for our Manager's liking and it is something he admits he has had his players working on in training.
Arsenal’s opening goal last weekend was from a corner kick and Jol is keen to see his Team tighten up defensively when it comes to set pieces.
“We have to come up with something better,” he admitted. “If you see, for example, against Southampton, Reading and Arsenal, 60-70 per cent of the goals we conceded were set plays; corners and free-kicks.
“We’ve still scored more set pieces than we’ve conceded but it was a little worry and we spoke about it. So we need to be a bit tougher maybe and improve our concentration. If you score three goals away from home and you still don’t win then it’s frustrating.”