Holloway throws down gauntlet
Ian Holloway has challenged his Crystal Palace players to end the season above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone but has dismissed any suggestion that Monday's opponents Fulham will also be a part of the battle for survival.
The Eagles will start the game in 19th place in the table with the visiting Cottagers just two places above them after both have suffered following faltering starts to their respective campaigns.
But while Holloway would happily settle for a 17th-placed finish at the end of the season, he does not envisage Fulham fighting away at the foot of the table for much longer.
When asked if Martin Jol's side were part of the bottom four battle Holloway said: "That would be a bit of a disgrace to Fulham.
"For them they have had a mixed bag of results recently and then people were taking with a new owner and speculation grows.
"But Martin is a very shrewd cookie and they have got all sorts of players there. Scott Parker is fit again and when you look at it they are used to this division.
"I'm sure they will have much bigger aspirations than ourselves and the truth is we have got to try and finish first of the bottom four."
A 3-1 victory at home to bottom side Sunderland remains the only positive result so far this season for Palace, who have lost six of their seven Premier League fixtures.
Holloway admits his side need to improve but will not be writing them off this early in to the season.
"At the end of the day what we have been doing lately hasn't been good enough and we have got to do better," he said.
"That doesn't scare me, that is a fact and we have got to try and do that and do it very, very quickly.
"If this was the last game of the season then we are in the mire aren't we?
"But it isn't, we have got 31 left and have got to try and get some points and stay with the pack and try and grind some things out.
"At the moment we are in a bad run and things haven't gone our way but we have got to try and keep going.
"To be honest I think the group will respond to that because they are so newly-formed, it is no excuse but it is the fact, and we have to learn through adversity to get stronger."
Fulham boss Jol has offered encouraging words to his fans and those at Crystal Palace after both sides' poor start to the season.
The Cottagers are outside the relegation zone on goal difference only, while Ian Holloway's men have just four points from their first seven games.
Jol, however, believes early-season form is no indication of how a club will finish.
"Even when you're in the bottom three at Christmas it doesn't mean you will go down," he said, ahead of Monday's clash between the two teams at Selhurst Park.
"I remember Ian Holloway doing an unbelievable job at Blackpool. I think he was in the top eight at one stage four or five years ago and they still got relegated after Christmas.
"He played a different system, a very progressive 4-3-3 and he did it again with Crystal Palace. So I still feel that the man is doing a good job, but the results are not going for them.
"And hopefully Monday will be the same."
Of his own squad, Jol denied speculation morale is dipping in the dressing room.
"We've got a great team spirit, we've got new players in, I've got all these players, 80 per cent of the players are my players and the other players are here for at least two years, so there's no problem," he said.
"The only problem we have is we had an indifferent result against Cardiff, but Cardiff beat Manchester City as well. So they're all strong these teams.
"West Brom you know, we should have beaten them, they scored in the 93rd minute, they scored the equaliser and a week later they beat Man United away from home. I spoke to my friends and to other managers, and they all know that it's not easy to get results in the Premier League."
Scott Parker will make a welcome return to Fulham's midfield should he be fit, while Dimitar Berbatov is expected to line up having used the international break to get over the knock he picked up against Stoke.
Iranian international Ashkan Dejagah won't be rushed back in to the squad, though, despite playing more than an hour for his country against Thailand earlier in the week.