Jol expecting tough Sunderland test
Fulham may have a tough run of fixtures coming up but manager Martin Jol is refusing to look ahead of what he expects to be a difficult match against Sunderland.
The Dutchman's second season at the helm has started well and his side come into this weekend's fixtures ninth in the table.
The Cottagers are in the midst of a five-match unbeaten streak and will be looking to continue that against Martin O'Neill's side, before facing difficult trips to Stoke and Chelsea.
Jol's former club Tottenham and then Newcastle come to Craven Cottage immediately afterwards but Sunday is the only thing the Whites boss is concerning himself with.
He said: "First we have to play this game, you know?
"They have six draws - four draws away from home in six games - so it is not an easy one.
"They conceded less goals probably than any other team in the league so they are well organised and they've got the likes of James McClean and Steven Fletcher.
"Stephane Sessegnon had a great season last year and Adam Johnson won't have been cheap. He's one of the bigger talents in England. Up front they've got quality so it won't be a walkover.
"We have to be aware of the fact they can hurt any other team, especially away from home because they didn't pick up the points but four draws out of six games is not great but is not bad either."
Fulham's match with Sunderland is the only Premier League match on Sunday, irking some fans who would prefer a traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off.
But the extra day will give Jol more time to think about how to set-up his midfield, with a number of key players absent.
Mahamadou Diarra and Mickael Tavares are major doubts through injury, while Simon Davies and Chris Baird are definitely out of contention.
Jol knows he has to "come up with a solution" to his central midfield conundrum but does not have to look hard to find a replacement for Kieran Richardson on the left wing.
The 28-year-old misses out against his former club with a hamstring injury picked up in last weekend's 3-3 draw at Arsenal and could be replaced by highly-rated Sweden international Alex Kacaniklic.
Jol said: "[Hugo] Rodallega of course is here and can play on the left but with Kaca after one or two good games they selected him for Sweden so that was helpful for him, not for us.
"I saw his game with Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] up front with him on the left against England and I have to say he is developing in a very typical left-sided player. I am happy he is here."
Winger Adam Johnson has backed old friend Lee Cattermole in his role as Sunderland captain.
Cattermole's disciplinary record - his red card in the Capital One Cup at MK Dons on September 25 was the seventh of his senior career - has led to speculation that his days as skipper could be numbered.
However, Black Cats boss O'Neill, for the time being at least, is prepared to stick with the 24-year-old, who is fighting a race against time to be fit having sat out last weekend's loss at Everton with a knee injury.
Johnson has known Cattermole a good deal longer than the Ulsterman after the pair emerged through the ranks at Middlesbrough, and insists he has seen a marked change in the midfield enforcer since his summer arrival at the Stadium of Light.
Johnson, 25, said with a smile: "He was always once of those players since we were about 15, to be honest.
"He was always hot-headed and got the lads going. As a young lad, he was probably even crazier than he is now on the pitch.
"But that was because he was young, he was so enthusiastic and he went in for tackles. But now, and especially this season, you have really seen a different side to his game.
"I know he gets a lot of bad press for being sent off a lot, but if you watch him when he actually is playing, he's a massive help to the team.
"It's not just all about getting the team going, he can play. He passes it, he is always looking to get on the ball.
"This season since I came in, I have seen a massive difference from when I used to know him.
"I know I have played with him in the [England] Under-21s, but he has matured loads now and he's definitely worthy of the captaincy because he is a great leader."
Despite his injury, Cattermole was at Goodison Park on Saturday to see Johnson score his first goal for the club since making a #10million switch from Manchester City.
The strike capped perhaps the England midfielder's best individual display in a red and white shirt after an injury-hit first few months on Wearside, and he is now looking to rediscover the form which secured a #7million move to City and a regular place in the England squad.
Johnson said: "I felt good. It's been coming. The injury set me back a bit when I signed and I sort of lost the whole pre-season I did with City through one injury.
"I think my fitness is definitely getting there now and hopefully my form will come.
"It's probably the best I have played on Saturday since I signed."
O'Neill faces late decisions over a handful of players. As well as Cattermole, Scotland striker Steven Fletcher (calf) and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (thigh) missed their respective international matches in midweek. Jordan Pickford, 18 is on standby to provide the back-up to Simon Mignolet.
Full-back Phil Bardsley (hamstring) also remains a doubt for the game at Craven Cottage after missing the defeat at Everton.