Martin Jol is delighted by the way Dimitar Berbatov has started life at Fulham - but will have to do without the striker when Manchester City come to Craven Cottage.
The Bulgarian represents a coup for the Whites, who saw off competition from Serie A giants Juventus and Fiorentina to sign him on transfer-deadline day. Berbatov has shone in his first two-and-a-half appearances for Fulham and netted twice as they saw off West Brom 3-0 in their last home game.
The 31-year-old was set for another starring role against Roberto Mancini's City tomorrow but will miss the match - and the next two weeks - through injury. "I was very pleased [with his impact] because we were worried because we lost our quality in midfield and that was probably our biggest quality," Fulham manager Jol said, referring to the recent departures of Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele. "We had one that scored the goals and one that was good on the ball and then he came and he almost filled two positions in one. "He was a number nine but he played in a number 10 role so for us it was quite good that he was there, but he is injured now and can't play so that is a big disappointing thing.
He will be out for the next two weeks. "Berbatov looked good in the training session as usual and then the final shot [of the session] he felt something and he had to go in and stop training. "It appears he has not got a tear but a problem with his hip, upper thigh so we couldn't take the risk to involve him tomorrow." Berbatov will not be the only player to miss the game, with Kieran Richardson, Ashkan Dejagah and Philippe Senderos all not quite ready to feature after injury. Mahamadou Diarra is another out of the reckoning for the Cottagers but there has been some good news on his fitness this week.
Roberto Mancini has claimed Manchester City will win the Premier League title again this season despite his side's patchy start to the campaign. City are in seventh place in the table and have not won in their last four games in all competitions. Mancini has blamed the disrupted pre-season, with many players returning to the club late due to international commitments, for the slow start. The Italian admitted winning the second title is harder than the first, but insisted his side would pull off the feat. Mancini said: "I agree that it is more difficult the second year but we [will] win, we [will] win the title. "I think this year all these teams are better teams and probably every game will be more difficult than last year."
City have had the best defensive record in the top flight for the past two seasons but this season so far they have looked fragile at the back, conceding 14 goals in seven competitive matches so far and without a single clean sheet. Mancini pointed out that in the five Premier League matches his side have only let in two more than at the same stage last season, and blamed the pre-season disruption. He added: "It's difficult because we didn't have 14 players in pre-season and had new players on the last day of the transfer market and they need time. "Another reason we didn't work well in pre-season is because we didn't have all the defenders, but we have all these problems and conceded only two goals more than last year. "We had the best defensive record for the last two seasons, but football is like this - sometimes you don't concede a goal for 10 games and then concede two or three goals. We need to work hard and have more concentration. "Maybe we score less than last year after five games but we have had [injury] problems with Sergio [Aguero]." City's only fresh injury is to midfielder Jack Rodwell, who will miss out against Fulham after injuring his groin in the warm-up before the Villa game.