In Martin Jol’s weekly video previewing matches, he was clearly happy to see many players returning from injury for this weekend’s clash with Aston Villa at home. The international break couldn’t have come at a better time for Fulham, who had grinded out some important points on the road, but after the Southampton game before the break, couldn’t help but feel disappointed after letting a late lead slip to a draw.
Jol mentioned the following players during his interview:
-Jol said Berbatov is back from injury, fit, and ready to start. He’s the obvious start in this bunch, and will be ready to lead the attack.
-The manager will have many options on the left, and it will be interesting to see who he picks to play. He mentioned obviously Kacaniklic has been playing well, but Kerim Frei has finally returned from injury after having been missing since the opening of the season, and will play into the mix. He also said Kieran Richardson has been playing well and will be considered, but I disagree that he’s been playing well and I think it’s just Martin Jol playing up his squad. Expect Kacaniklic to start with Frei possibly making it to the bench and maybe a late run out.
-Ashkan Dejagah is set to finally make his Fulham debut, as he is back from a knee injury he picked up just before transferring to Fulham at the end of the window. With the international break having given Damien Duff on the right some time off, expect Duff to start this weekend. However, don’t be surprised to see Dejegah get some chances every few weeks on the right with Duff reaching higher and higher on the age chart, giving the Duffer some time off.
-Jol talked at length about who he wants to play beside Berbatov up front. Mladen Petric has also returned from injury, but because of his knock’s timing, he hasn’t gotten to show what he can do next to the Serbian. If I’m extrapolating from what Jol said, I’d expect to see Petric start this weekend because he wants to see Mladen and Berbatov play together, and he talked much higher of the Yugoslavian than he did Rodallega. Hugo will no doubt make the bench though.
-In a shock announcement, Jol said Mahamadou Diarra is a possibility for this match, although I would highly doubt it. However, just the fact that Diarra is in the mix at this stage is, as Jol put it, “a medical miracle.” Just coming off knee surgery, they even showed video of Diarra training with the squad. When it was announced he would be out, it said 3-4 weeks, possibly the season with knee ligament damage and surgery. Obviously that’s vague, as it could mean anything from an MCL sprain to an ACL tear and everything in between. If I had to venture a guess, I would say he probably had a meniscus and/or MCL tear that required surgery and it was unknown if there was more damage. Those usually take 6-8 weeks to recover from, which is why Jol described it as such. Great to have him back in the near future! But don’t expect Diarra to play this weekend.
-Finally, the one bit of downer news, Bryan Ruiz is also a doubt for this match, but it doesn’t at all sound serious, and Jol did leave the possibility on the table that he could play.
Published with permission from Fulham's Finest.