Dimitar Berbatov and Mahamadou Diarra return to lift Fulham


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The Independent Football

Dimitar Berbatov will return to the Fulham starting line-up against Aston Villa today and could be joined by Mahamadou Diarra after what Martin Jol described as a "miracle" recovery.

It has been an amazing turnaround for Diarra as only last month the Fulham manager revealed fears the midfielder could be ruled out for the majority of the season.

Diarra damaged his left knee on his return from international exile with Mali and required surgery, which could have meant five months out had it shown a cruciate ligament problem. Fortunately for Fulham it was the best case scenario but, even still, Jol has been surprised by the speed of recovery.

"Diarra is back," the Fulham manager said. "He is almost a miracle, you know? I thought it would be a bit longer, but they always said it could be three or four weeks or possibly longer. He needed an operation and, having said that, he is still coming back. He will be involved."

Jol can also call upon Berbatov and Mladen Petric against Villa. The pair have recovered from their respective injuries and, aside from long-term absentee Simon Davies, it leaves the Dutchman with fitness concerns only over Bryan Ruiz.

Ninth-placed Fulham will be looking to continue their sturdy start to the season today, where Steve Sidwell is likely to line up against his former club Villa just months after he considered quitting football due to ongoing injury problems.

"Steve Sidwell was very good when he started with Danny Murphy in midfield," Jol said. "He then had his problem with his hernia and came back, then needed an operation again – but he was probably not as fit as he was before. But from pre-season when he came back, I think he is the old Steve Sidwell so he is an important member of our squad."