Fulham V Aston Villa at Craven Cottage : Match Preview
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Diarra recovery impresses Jol
Dimitar Berbatov will return to the Fulham starting line-up against Aston Villa and could be joined by Mahamadou Diarra after what Martin Jol described as a "miracle" recovery.
It has been an amazing turnaround for Diarra as only last month the Whites boss revealed there were fears the midfielder could be ruled out for the majority of the season. Diarra damaged his left knee on his return from international exile with Mali and required surgery, which could have seen him miss five months had it shown a cruciate ligament problem. Fortunately for Fulham it was the best case scenario but, even still, Jol has been surprised by the speed of recovery.
"Diarra is back," the Fulham manager said.
"He is almost a miracle, you know?
"I thought it would be a bit longer, but they always said it could be three or four weeks or possibly longer.
"He needed an operation and, having said that, he is still coming back. He will be involved." Diarra's return is one of a number of boosts for Jol, who can call upon talisman Berbatov and fellow summer signing Mladen Petric against Villa. The pair have recovered from their respective injuries and, aside from long-term absentee Simon Davies, it leaves the Dutchman only to sweat on the fitness of Bryan Ruiz.
"Most of the players are back," Jol said.
"Dimitar trained with us for the last 10 days and was good, but Bryan Ruiz is a doubt.
"He has got a little problem with his groin, but Berbatov will certainly be involved and will play. Most of them are back in contention."
Fulham will be looking to continue their sturdy start to the season, where Steve Sidwell is likely to line up against former club Villa just months after he considered quitting football due to ongoing injury problems.
"Steve Sidwell was very good when he started with Danny Murphy in midfield," Jol said. "He then had his problem with his hernia and came back, then needed an operation again - but he was probably not as fit as he was before.
"But from pre-season when he came back, I think he is the old Steve Sidwell so he is an important member of our squad. "He has got a certain type of quality. We've got good footballers but he is one that is complete and good without the ball as well."
Villa have collected only one win from their opening seven league games but boss Paul Lambert is happy with their performances.
He said: "The good thing is the lads know themselves they are playing well.
"Everyone says they could have more points and it is not something I really worry about. I never look over my shoulder at what could have been. "It's now that is in my thinking. But the performances have been good and we will just keep on going. "They are playing well enough to win games, that's for sure."
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