Stoke V Fulham at Britannia Stadium - Match Preview
Updated Friday, 23rd November 2012
Stoke V Fulham at Britannia Stadium - Match Preview.
Berbatov best summer buy - Pulis
Stoke boss Tony Pulis feels Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov has been one of the stand-out stars of the Barclays Premier League season so far.
Berbatov, having fallen out of favour at Manchester United, joined the Cottagers on transfer deadline day in August, becoming manager Martin Jol's most high-profile recruit of the summer.
A day later the 31-year-old Bulgarian striker made his debut as a substitute, since when he has scored five goals in seven starts, and Pulis - whose side host Fulham at the Britannia Stadium - has no doubt Jol has made a very shrewd move.
"He is a good manager and he is very well respected around the country," Pulis said of his counterpart.
"Fulham have some good players and I think Berbatov has been the outstanding buy for them.
"He is the glue that knits it all together.
"He looks as if he is really, really enjoying himself having found a home where he is the main player. Looking at him, he is just showing the class that he possesses."
Asked if there had been a better signing made by a Premier League club over the summer, Pulis said: "It doesn't look like it at the moment."
He added: "I think our supporters will see one of the best players in the Premier League on Saturday on the ball.
"He can win games by himself and has been a great signing for Martin.
"Berbatov is one of the outstanding players in the Premier League this year. It is worth the admission fee just to see him play."
Stoke could be without defender Andy Wilkinson for the match.
Wilkinson had to come off in the first half of Monday's 1-1 draw at West Ham due to a back problem and has undergone a scan.
If he is ruled out, his replacement at Upton Park, Ryan Shotton, is likely to deputise once again at full-back.
Midfielder Dean Whitehead is back available after being suspended for the game against the Hammers, but striker Michael Owen is not expected to be ready to make his return from a hamstring complaint, while midfielder Rory Delap (hernia) and defender Marc Wilson (broken leg) remain sidelined.
Meanwhile, Ashkan Dejagah believes Fulham need to forget their free-flowing football and show some fight at Stoke.
The Cottagers have been one of the most entertaining teams in the Barclays Premier League this season, scoring 25 goals in their opening 12 matches.
However, summer signing Dejagah knows they will need to show a grittier side at the Britannia Stadium if they are to get a positive result.
"The players tell me that Stoke are very direct and it's not easy to play at their ground," the winger told official website fulhamfc.com.
"They have some big players and they like to play long balls.
"We must fight in this game - it's not a match to play football. If we fight for each other we can win this game."
Mahamadou Diarra and Chris Baird return for the match and will no doubt help to shore up the midfield.
Martin Jol's side will be without a number of players, though, as captain Brede Hangeland is unavailable through suspension and Bryan Ruiz and Mickael Tavares are both injured.
Wingers Alex Kacaniklic and Kieran Richardson are also out, but Dejagah is happy to fill the void on the left if called upon.
"The right is my favourite but I've played on the left before for Wolfsburg," the Iran international said.
"The manager is the boss and he will decide who will play there on Saturday."
Dejagah will be hoping to return to the starting line-up after being named among the substitutes for last weekend's disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Sunderland.
He has been on the bench more often than not since his move from the Bundesliga, thanks in no small part to the injury that sidelined him when he first moved to west London.
Dejagah is now back to full fitness, though, and looking to build on his lone start at the Emirates Stadium, where Fulham held Arsenal to a 3-3 draw.
"It was a big game for me," he said. "It was my first match for Fulham from the beginning and it was against Arsenal at an amazing stadium.
"It was a good game. It ended 3-3 so we were very happy to score three goals at Arsenal.
"I was very happy that the manager gave me the chance to start the game. It showed he believes in me.
"I feel very good after my injury. The physios have been great and I'm very happy here. It's good to now be involved with the first team."
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