Fulham V Stoke at Craven Cottage : Match Preview
Next four weeks crucial for Jol
Martin Jol believes this next month is the most vital of Fulham's season.
The Cottagers have struggled for consistency over the course of the campaign, thanks in no small part to their attempts to juggle domestic and European exertions.
Fulham's attention is now squarely on the Barclays Premier League and they will hope to increase their seven-point gap over the drop zone when they welcome Stoke to Craven Cottage.
Jol has highlighted the match and the three that follow - QPR, Wolves and Aston Villa - as vital if they are to build momentum and further their hopes of survival.
When asked whether the next four weeks are the most crucial, the Dutchman said: "Yes, because we want to get a bigger gap over the bottom three.
"Hopefully we can do that against the teams around us. It will be a challenge because we haven't done that before because we are quite inconsistent.
"But, on the other hand, if you have nine draws that is pretty consistent. That said, I think we should have won five or six of those.
"If we would have done that and scored more goals in the right moments, we would be in a terrific position." Saturday's match will be Fulham's 42nd of a mammoth season that began in late June due to their Europa League campaign.
While the west Londoners have now exited the competition, Stoke have made it to the knockout stages and Jol was quick to praise their opponents.
"They have four wins away from home so they are quite a consistent team," he said. "They don't score a lot of goals but they score at the right moments.
"Stoke are playing in a compact English way and I think they have done a terrific job, especially as they are in Europe too. That is not easy, I can tell you.
"They are a strong team but we have home advantage and we need the points really."
Jol admitted Fulham have spent extra time on the training ground this week preparing for the Potters' direct style of play. While wary of the threat Stoke pose, the Dutchman indicated they themselves may have a physical presence to deal with in the form of Pavel Pogrebnyak.
The Russia international joined on transfer deadline day from Stuttgart and could get his first taste of English football.
"He came in on Wednesday and made a good impression, which is good," Jol said. "Everybody is looking after him so, although it is always difficult to start in the Premier League, mentally he is up for it and he looks fit.
"I hope he brings us goals. That is always important for any team because we have other qualities around him." Pogrebnyak's chances of starting have been heightened by the news Andrew Johnson has yet to return to full fitness.
The 30-year-old has a problem with left adductor and, although showing signs of improvement, is unavailable to face Stoke.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis is seeking clarity from the Football Association on tackling following Robert Huth's sending-off against Sunderland last weekend.
Potters defender Huth was shown a straight red card by referee Martin Atkinson in the first half of the 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at a snowy Britannia Stadium for a sliding challenge on David Meyler.
Atkinson's decision left Pulis fuming and the Staffordshire outfit subsequently lodged an appeal with the FA but it was rejected, meaning Huth - now faced with a three-match ban - will sit out the trip to Fulham.
The Welshman intends to pursue the matter, though, and said: "We are going to put a compilation of incidents together over the next few days.
"We will do it very professionally, in a proper manner, and then we'll send it off to the FA. "We have to clear up what is a sending-off and what isn't, because we are watching games at times and we are getting different decisions being made for different teams and different players, but similar incidents.
"Our big thing is the inconsistency of it all and how we can clear it up. "There is no point being just negative with it - you have to be a little bit constructive with it as well.
"We are disappointed that it (Huth's red card) has not been rescinded, but we have to get on with it."
While Huth will not be available for the game at Craven Cottage, Pulis is hopeful that forward Cameron Jerome, substituted in the Sunderland match due to a dead leg, and midfielder Matthew Etherington, who missed the fixture through illness, will be.
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