Fulham Manager Martin Jol knows full well what to expect when he takes his Whites side to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday (3pm).
Jol’s men face a Stoke City outfit who have built up a reputation as a team who like to play direct football, and the Fulham boss is aware his charges will need to have answers to the questions posed to them by the Potters.
“We have to cope with the aerial threat,” he said. “We can’t come up with different solutions. We don’t have another Brede Hangeland, but we’ve got Philippe Senderos and he will hopefully, if he stays fit, come in and replace him.
“With Aaron Hughes and the other players we’ve got, we are strong enough but I saw Stoke against West Ham United [on Monday] and it will be quite a challenge.
“You always hope that you can play your football and get them on the back foot but that is not easy because they try to pressurise you and they put balls into your box. They’ve got five or six players with a lot of size, so it’s not easy but we will try to come up with something.”
Jol is set to be without his Captain for the next three matches and, while he was not happy with Hangeland’s dismissal against Sunderland, he has opted not to appeal against the decision.
“Hangeland is suspended,” he said. “I felt that it was a very harsh decision but we haven’t appealed it because there’s always the risk that if you are unsuccessful then the ban becomes four games rather than three.”
The Black Cats defeat last weekend cost Fulham more than just three points and a suspension, as Bryan Ruiz and Alexander Kačaniklić both departed the field of play with injuries.
Jol confirmed that the duo will be out for the next few matches, although he had better news regarding the fitness of another influential midfielder.
“Mahamadou Diarra trained with us on Thursday so he is available for selection,” Jol confirmed. “Ruiz will be out for possibly the next two weeks. Kačaniklić is the same story; 10 days or two weeks out.
“Simon Davies will return to full training next week so he will be back, and Kieran Richardson will be back next week as well. [Mickael] Tavares is still injured with his hamstring so he’s not involved.”
In Fulham’s last three matches, Jol opted to start Ruiz in behind Dimitar Berbatov up front. Following the playmaker’s injury, however, the Dutchman now admits he needs to re-evaluate his striking options.
“Berbatov could drop into a number 10 role with Mladen Petrić coming in,” he mused. “We could play in a 4-4-2 or we could play with a 4-4-1-1, so that is the decision we have to make.
“We know Stoke well; they are very strong, especially at home so it’s only a matter of whether we go with Hugo Rodallega up front or Petrić up front. Hugo was playing on the left against Sunderland because Richardson was not there and Kaca was not there.
“Petrić came on at the weekend and he scored so he can play with Berbatov, as I said before. They do well in training together. [But] Rodallega can make a good pair with Berbatov too, and Berbatov can play on his own. Giorgos [Karagounis] can play in the hole too so there are a few options. We’ll have to wait and see what option we use on Saturday.