Fulham V Wigan at Craven Cottage : Match Preview
Jol hoping to keep hold of Dempsey
Fulham manager Martin Jol has urged star forward Clint Dempsey to stay at Craven Cottage. The 29-year-old attacking midfielder has scored 22 goals this season and is one of the main reasons Fulham are sitting in 10th place in the Barclays Premier League table without any relegation worries. Dempsey, however, has one year left on his contract and Jol, who lost Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United for £30m when he managed Tottenham, fears that a big club could come in with an offer for the United States international which Fulham could not turn down. Jol said: "If you have a year to go it is hard to keep someone. If you want to keep him on a contract until it will finish that will be a difficult situation for him and for us. "That is the main priority I want to focus on. Can we keep him? We have made him a good offer and we have to wait and see until the summer. "But I told him yesterday that I would love him to stay here at least as long as I am here. "He's had some season. He can score from all angles in the box and he can even score when he is not playing up front. I am very happy he is there. We are talking to him and hopefully we will get it right."
Fulham resume their Premier League season against resurgent Wigan after an impromptu break last weekend caused by rearranged fixtures. Strikers Pavel Pogrebnyak and Andrew Johnson return to the squad after recovering from ankle and thigh injuries respectively but Jol is under no illusions that his team will face a battle against a Wigan side who have put breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone after beating Manchester United and Arsenal in the past 10 days. Jol believes Wigan's Spanish boss Roberto Martinez, a huge admirer of Barcelona's passing style, has had to curb his attacking tendencies to put some steel into the Latics. Jol said: "They still need three or four points so they will fight for their lives. Bolton were in the same situation and we did well so hopefully we can keep the initiative. We have to be patient. "Wigan did well at the right time of the season. They could get out of trouble now. They like to play but when they did that they didn't have the points. "They have changed their style. They defend in numbers and they have got three players up front who do all the damage. "They play compact now, like they did against Arsenal. There was no space on the flanks, there was no space in the middle. I went to the Emirates and saw that game, they are a hard team to beat these days."
Martinez has no concerns about keeping his players' feet on the ground over their dramatic resurgence. Latics have gone from being widely written off in the Barclays Premier League relegation fight to looking a decent bet to survive after a series of remarkable results in the past month. In their last five games, Wigan have beaten Liverpool, Stoke, Manchester United and Arsenal as well suffering a controversial defeat to Chelsea. They are now five points clear of a relegation zone they have spent most of the season in but, with four games still to go, Martinez insists nobody is getting ahead of themselves. The Spaniard said: "We don't look at the table. We never looked at the table when we were in a position where it was a little bit threatening, and we don't look at the table now. "We know we haven't got enough points. We have got 12 points to fight for and we are going to have the same approach. "We are going to go into every game with a real feeling that it is a cup final and that is the way we have been playing for a long time. "What we have learned over the years is just to concentrate on ourselves and our performances. "When things are positive on the outside we don't get carried away and when things are negative on the outside we don't let them affect us. "That is a real strength of ours and that is the only thing I am focusing on."
Momentum could now put Wigan in the unusual position of being favourites for the visit to Craven Cottage but Martinez is guarded against complacency. With games against fellow strugglers Blackburn and Wolves still to come, and the twists and turns of last year's survival campaign still fresh, Martinez knows how quickly the situation could change. He said: "Fulham is a completely different situation from the ones we have faced of late. "They are a really difficult team to play against and they have done really well. They use their home advantage in a great way. "They are a top-10 team in this league and they are a real threat. "I saw them against Chelsea and they never looked like a side that was inferior at all - the opposite."
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