Fulham V Man City at Craven Cottage : Match Preview
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Winter rush leaves Pellegrini cold
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is not impressed by English football's packed Christmas fixture schedule.
Pellegrini, in his first season in the Barclays Premier League, is frustrated that his team must play on Boxing Day and again on December 28.
Those matches, against Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively and both at home, come amid a run of four games in 12 days starting at Fulham on Saturday.
Pellegrini, having seen Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta join Micah Richards, Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic on the casualty list in the past week, fears losing more players to injury.
The Chilean accepts such a busy festive programme is traditional in England but he concedes he is a fan of the winter breaks they have in other leagues where he has worked.
He said: "We are always changing every match - the rotation of the squad is very important.
"We have to play 26th and 28th, less than 48 hours. It is incredible that the games are so near.
"I think that to play two games in less than 72 hours is not a good thing, the players are not recovered in less than 72 hours normally.
"Playing after 40 hours, I think, is a very bad thing. It is a lot of games and in this case we are not in the best situation."
When asked if he would like to see anything changed, Pellegrini said: "I don't know because it is very important, here in the Premier League, all these days like Boxing Day.
"But all the other countries stop and I think it is very important for the players to have a winter break because they play too much, too many games
"But the rules are the rules and always the Premier League has been the same, so we must play."
The absence of Zabaleta, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Leicester on Tuesday, gives City a problem at right-back with Richard already out.
Zabaleta is only expected to be out for a week or two but Pellegrini must consider deploying a central defender, a midfielder or one of his two left-backs in an unfamiliar position during this testing run.
Pellegrini said: "We don't have a right-back so will see who will play there.
"We can play (Gael) Clichy, we can play (Aleksandar) Kolarov, we can play (Dedryck) Boyata, (James) Milner, so we will see who is the best option."
City are still unsure how long they will be without top scorer Aguero, who limped off with a calf injury during last week's 6-3 thrashing of Arsenal.
Edin Dzeko, after scoring twice at Leicester, will hope to continue in place of 19-goal Aguero, although it remains to be seen if he can form an effective partnership with Alvaro Negredo.
Jovetic, City's fourth striker, is again unavailable this weekend due to illness.
Rene Meulensteen is planning to team up former Fulham striker Clint Dempsey with current star Dimitar Berbatov to kick-start the club's fight for Premier League survival.
Dempsey is currently undergoing medical tests with a view to rejoining Fulham on loan in January, while Meulensteen believes he has persuaded Berbatov to stay at Craven Cottage.
It would be a major double coup for the Dutch manager who has been in charge for just three matches and used to ply his trade at Manchester United as a first team coach under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Dempsey, 30, currently plays for Seattle Sounders in America's Major League Soccer following a disappointing season with Tottenham last year, but is available for January and February in the MLS close season.
Meulensteen, whose side lie second from bottom in the Premier League and face the daunting visit of Manchester City to Craven Cottage on Saturday, said: "He's (Dempsey)having a medical over the last couple of days and the next couple of days, so hopefully that will all work out.
"Clint has spent so many years playing in the Premier League.
"We know where his strengths lie whether it is coming in from the left or playing as a deeper striker or a number nine depending on who you are playing against.
"The most important thing is that he will be a good boost for us."
Dempsey, who is captain of the United States national team, played 184 league matches for Fulham between 2007-2012, scoring 50 goals, and while he was often looked upon as the club's talisman there were some fans who were not impressed when he decided to leave for Tottenham.
Meulensteen, however, believes the fans will give him a warm welcome.
"I'm sure they will," he said. "It speaks volumes for him that in his loan opportunity he wants to come back here."
While the arrival of Dempsey could be crucial to Fulham's progress in the new year it is the news that Berbatov, 32, could also stick around which is exciting for Fulham fans.
Berbatov's agent had insisted he was unhappy and wanted to leave in the last weeks of the Martin Jol era.
Meulensteen, who has no new problems to concern him ahead of the game, said: "That was before I took over. I had a chat with him.
"I know he is very committed to this football club and the games we have in front of us.
"That's what we both said, concentrate on the games we have up to January and then review the situation as it comes."
Asked whether he believed he had persuaded Berbatov to stay, Meulensteen said: "I could well have done because look at the performances he has put in. He has been excellent, absolutely fantastic for us."
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