Manager Martin Jol insists that his Fulham players know the size of the task that faces them as they prepare to take on Chelsea in the SW6 derby on Wednesday night.
The Whites, currently in 10th position with 40 points on the board, can have a big say in who finishes in the top four this season as they entertain both Chelsea and Arsenal at the Cottage in quick succession. But the Dutchman claims that his players need no further motivation to get results against other London sides.
“There could be a little discussion about QPR,” he said when it was put to him that beating Chelsea would be the ‘ultimate victory’. “But I feel that Chelsea being in the Fulham area makes this the biggest derby and the players know that.
“We have players here like Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland, and Aaron Hughes, who have been here for years and they know how important it is.”
With Chelsea playing in the FA Cup with Budweiser against Manchester City at the weekend, the Blues opted to rest stalwarts Frank Lampard and John Terry in preparation for the derby. Jol, though, is not thinking about specific players as he believes all of the Chelsea squad are dangerous, despite their busy schedule.
“There are a few good players at Chelsea,” he said. “The only thing I thought was maybe that they can score a goal [against City], make an equaliser and play for another half an hour [in extra-time] - that would have been nice. But that was the only thing that was in my mind as, no matter what, they will have 11 very good players on the pitch against us.
“Terry is a legend, so he will probably play. I’ve got a feeling Lampard will play; I also have a sneaky feeling [Fernando] Torres will play as well. I could go on as there are maybe five or six, so they have got a very good squad.”
With the climax of the Barclays Premier League season little more than a month away, the usual transfer speculation surrounding top flight clubs has begun and while Jol admits he is still keen to ensure that the Fulham squad’s average age is lowered, he also challenged some of his younger players to step up to the mark.
“Of course you can have a philosophy to lower the average age but you have to be realistic as well,” he said. “If there are not players who are 20 or 21 from the reserve team who are good enough then you have to be happy with the players you have got.
“I feel that necessity is the mother of invention. I have a few youngsters but they have to do well. [Matthew] Briggs is a youngster who has played at a couple of loan clubs, but he has to do well because if you do not then you can’t expect me to play you in the first team. Kaca [Alexander Kačaniklić] did okay, but they have to work hard and develop themselves; Kerim Frei is another. I’ve got Chris David who will be one of them, but they have to prove they are as good as someone already in the squad.”