Coleman excited by replacement surprise packages

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The Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, has warned players returning from injury they face a battle to get back into the team.

The Cottagers have lost virtually an entire side to the treatment room, including senior players such as Luis Boa Morte, Papa Bouba Diop, Zat Knight and Ian Pearce.

But Coleman has been so impressed with the commitment shown by his current patched-up team that he maintains all of them must fight to regain their places.

"It's an exciting time this Christmas," said the 36-year-old, preparing his side for tonight's game against Charlton. "People will say that we wish we had a full squad of players but for me the boys we have have done an excellent job. When the other lads come back they'll have to go some to get these jerseys because at the moment the guys who are playing are doing everything they can to stay in the team. I hope that continues."

Fulham began their Christmas schedule with a goalless draw at home to West Ham, leaving them on 24 points at the halfway stage of the campaign.

"To get 24 points is a pretty good return for us," Coleman said. "Of course, we are looking over our shoulders, but we can look up as well."

The defender Knight will miss tonight's game with a broken jaw that he sustained during an accident at home last week.

Iceland striker Heidar Helguson will miss the trip to The Valley through suspension, but Collins John and Claus Jensen could return after injuries.