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Fulham v West Bromwich Albion: Preview
Published : 04 Jan 2011 13:29:34
Moussa Dembele could finally make his Fulham comeback in Tuesday night's Barclays Premier League game against West Brom.
Dembele's ankle injury has proved troublesome, keeping him out for more than seven weeks, and his return would add much-needed firepower to the struggling Cottagers' ranks.
- Fulham v West Brom LIVE from 8pm
Goalkeeper David Stockdale will make his first appearance since August as Mark Schwarzer departs for Australia's Asian Cup campaign, while Matthew Briggs (calf), Bobby Zamora (leg) and Philippe Senderos (Achilles) remain out.
Mark Hughes hopes the manner of Fulham's last two performances will silence the Craven Cottage boo-boys - despite the club still languishing in the drop zone. Hughes will be in the home dugout against West Brom for the first time since Boxing Day, when some of the Cottagers' fans called for his head.
The former Manchester City and Blackburn manager left the field after his side's 3-1 defeat to West Ham to chants of "Hughes out!", having earlier endured taunts of "You don't know what you're doing!".
Fulham delivered the perfect response to that shattering setback by recording a surprise win at Stoke two days later, which they followed with another encouraging - if pointless - performance at Tottenham on Saturday.
Hughes insisted the club's supporters were within their rights to berate him after the Hammers game but is hopeful they take the improved displays on board.
"They showed disappointment as we were beaten 3-1, it is understandable," he said.
"But they have seen the manner of our last two performances - they will be right behind us."
Keeper Stockdale, 25, has thrown his weight behind his manager, saying: "Everyone outside the club was asking questions at one point but, as you saw against Stoke and Tottenham, everyone here is behind the manager.
"The lads put in two good performances last week and I think we deserved at least a point out of the game on Saturday against a top-four side.
"If you take those performances, we are a top-10 side and we just need to keep believing and we'll be there at the end of the season.
"We're looking to move out of the bottom positions as soon as possible, which I'm certain we will do. It's just a matter of time."
Roberto Di Matteo has more defensive problems to contend with ahead of West Brom's trip to Fulham. Pablo Ibanez (ankle) and Steven Reid (knee) were both forced off during Saturday's disappointing defeat to Manchester United and Di Matteo does not expect either man to be fit.
At least Gonzalo Jara is back after a one-match ban for the Baggies, who have now lost four matches on the trot. West Brom defender Paul Scharner has urged the Baggies to retain their self-belief despite suffering their worst Premier League run of the season.
The defeat to United was their fourth on the trot and means Di Matteo's men have now collected just seven points from 11 games after making an excellent start on their top-flight return. Another loss at Fulham would really leave them in trouble at a time when likely drop candidates West Ham have started to find some form. Little wonder Scharner is calling on his team-mates to keep their nerve.
"The mental side of the game is even more important now than it has ever been," said the Austrian.
"You have to be able to cope with all of the pressure because every small detail on the field matters. Everyone in the Premier League is fit enough to compete. They are strong and, most times, they are technically good.
"But there is another dimension. There is another five to 15% that comes from your belief and that can be the difference over the other team."
The Baggies will need all that belief just now as Di Matteo tries to juggle with a growing injury crisis.
"The results we have had away from home in particular this season have been very pleasing," said Scharner.
"To win at Arsenal and Everton for the first time in 30 years or more, and to get a point at Manchester United after being two goals down were great results.
"It shows the quality we have here, and how high the potential is in the squad."