Fulham are likely to be without Maarten Stekelenburg once again for the trip to Newcastle United on Saturday, while Fernando Amorebieta’s debut for the Club remains on hold, Martin Jol confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Thursday afternoon.
“The squad is looking okay,” he said. “It’s not 100 per cent though because we’ve still got Amorebieta out, and he won’t join us.
“Maarten Stekelenburg is a big question mark as well for the weekend. We will have a look tomorrow, but I think he won’t be in the squad. Maarten fell on his other side and was in quite a lot of pain and so I think he won’t manage to be in the squad for Newcastle.
“And of course, on the longer term, Kieran Richardson will take at least another three weeks.”
There is better news up front for the Whites, though, as Dimitar Berbatov returns to the squad having been rested in midweek, leaving our Manager with an interesting decision to make after Darren Bent led the line in the Capital One Cup win over Burton Albion.
“He played against Burton from the start,” Jol said of his new signing. “He looked fit, his capacity is good, so he will be in the squad.
“He was eager to play and he was eager to start. He joined us in every training session and looked fit so I think he looks good, he looks good to start and it’s about the decision to make on the team.
“He scored the goal against Arsenal – he’s always scoring goals – I’m happy that he’s here but we have to wait and see. Berbatov of course is in again, we rested him for the game against Burton, so we are pretty positive.”
The additions of Bent and Scott Parker have considerably strengthened the Fulham team, and Jol admits he’s pleased with how his squad is currently looking.
“It’s not like we’ve spent like Tottenham and other clubs, but I think we’re pretty satisfied to have the players on the board,” he said. “I think we did very well to see Scott Parker playing for us – it’s as if he was always there.
“Darren Bent came in, Adel Taarabt scored his first goal, so I’m pretty satisfied but you always wish to be perfect. I need a number one in any position because that makes it easier.
“Even for the players on the bench, they will know Berbatov is good and he will play. But I saw with Taarabt, for example, he went in and he scored. And Alex [Kačaniklić], for example, who’s a very good talent, has got to learn that: to be productive and score at least eight/nine goals.
“So there is some rivalry for places and the only thing for me is to gel them together in a good side and make us a bit more solid, and I think even that is possible – to score more goals and be solid at the same time.”
The Whites face a Newcastle United outfit yet to register a goal in the Barclays Premier League so far this season, but Jol is not taking the opposition lightly, although he admitted he would be disappointed if his side left St James’ Park empty handed come 5pm on Saturday.
“If you see their qualities, if you see the players they’ve got, I think it’s a fantastic squad,” he said of Alan Pardew’s men. “I saw the first match against Manchester City – and City is different, they’ve got so many qualities – and they beat them 4-0.
“We had a good game against Newcastle last year, and they had a terrific team. The year before, they were in the top six so they’ve got very good qualities and we are aware of that. The only thing is we would like to get at least a point from that game.”
With just a few days remaining before the summer transfer window slams shut, Jol was inevitably quizzed about further new arrivals to SW6, but the Dutchman doesn’t envisage wholesale changes before the deadline at 11pm on Monday.
“I don’t think it [deadline day] will be as hectic as it was here over the last season when we had one or two players coming in on the last day,” he said. “But there are always wishes for any manager.
“I think at the back, for example, we could do with a player, but we’ll have to wait and see. Of course Aaron Hughes could always play right-back for Sascha, but we will have to wait and see – maybe there will be one.
“We are probably 20th in the ranking in the league in terms of spending money, but we still do well so we are very proud of that sort of thing, that we still get the good players in – like Bent, and even Scott Parker – and I think if we can do that, attract these players, we will do well.”