The big news to emerge from Martin Jol’s press conference on Friday afternoon was that Dimitar Berbatov will be missing from Fulham’s matchday squad for the visit of Manchester City on Saturday (3pm).
The Bulgarian pulled up in training on Thursday, although there was better news concerning the severity of Mahamadou Diarra’s knee problem.
“Unfortunately Dimitar is injured now and can’t play on Saturday so that is the disappointing thing,” Jol told the gathered media. “He will be out for the next two weeks.
“In his session he was looking good, as usual, and then his final shot he felt something and he had to go in and stop training. It appears he had – not a tear – but a sort of problem with his hip and upper thigh so we couldn’t take the risk to involve him against City.
“Diarra had a minor operation but he will still be out for the next four weeks at least. They removed a few little pieces of bone from his knee and that was it so that was pleasing. There was not a lot of damage.
“If there had been more damage with his knee with his ligaments or his cruciate then he could have been out for a lot longer but it was exactly what we thought it was. But it’s still four weeks.”
Our Manager shed some light on our other occupants of the treatment room and revealed that several players are not far away from a return to First Team action.
“Ashkan [Dejagah] started training on Thursday,” he said. “But it’s not my habit to involve players two days later, because he was out for four weeks so he first has to prove he is match fit, like Kieran Richardson, like Philippe Senderos.
“They are all fit and trained on Thursday with us but they are not involved in the squad because they need maybe 45 minutes for the Reserves or maybe a bit more training next week or maybe we organise a friendly next week for the Club to give them some match practice.
“[Giorgos] Karagounis is getting fitter and fitter now. He played 60 minutes for the Reserves [on Monday] so he will be strongly involved tomorrow. [Kerim] Frei came back on Thursday and looked good so he will be involved in the next couple of weeks and compete for a place with Alexander Kačaniklić.”
The visit of City will provide a real threat to the Whites’ perfect record at Craven Cottage this season and Jol expects a stern test against a side challenging for the Barclays Premier League title once again.
“I think all the teams in England last year knew that Manchester City, along with Manchester United, were the favourites and in the end they nicked it,” he explained. “We know they’ve got all the money to spend, they’ve got all the good players in Europe so everybody knows they will probably be the biggest title contender this year.
“Roberto Mancini is a winner and he wants to win. He must win as well because if you are at Man City then you have to win as every game is a must-win game. So that puts a bit more pressure on him probably, although in the Premier League there’s pressure on all the managers.”
The Dutchman also commented on his desire to further bolster his midfield as he looks to add another anchorman to his side – although he distanced himself from the names currently being touted in the media as potential signings.
“We’re trying to do something in the next couple of days but not with Nigel Reo-Coker or Owen Hargreaves,” he said. “It will be a central midfielder from abroad and we will have to test him to see if he’s fit and then we will talk to him. I’m confident of having the deal sorted next week.”