Fulham manager Martin Jol wants his team's focus to be on defeating west London rivals QPR tomorrow rather than the occasion of coming up against Bobby Zamora and Mark Hughes for the first time.
The Cottagers have not lost to their near neighbours since 1983 and thrashed them 6-0 earlier in the season. Zamora scored in that Craven Cottage game but has now switched to QPR, who are under the stewardship of former Fulham manager Hughes.
Both men are expected to be the centre of attention from Fulham's visiting fans, but manager Jol says he is only interested in coming away with three points. "In the first game against QPR you felt the sort of feeling that this was new," the Dutchman said. "It was a derby game and I feel if you look at the reactions after the game from our fans, it is a big game now and in the future.
"In the past I think it was a good derby game, but it is now probably a bigger derby game than Chelsea.
"We have a lot of supporters going there, we focus on that and we will focus on our away form because that is not great. If you look at the form positively, you can say we didn't lose six out of the 12 away games but it is not the best away form."
Asked about Zamora, Jol added: "Bobby deserves praise because he played for us and was a very good servant for the club. Hopefully the QPR fans will think the same of him in a few years. [But] I always want to focus our fans on our team."
While Zamora left on transfer deadline day for a £6m-plus fee, Jol managed to bring in a replacement in the form of Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russia international joined from Stuttgart until the end of the season and made an immediate impact in west London, scoring 16 minutes into his debut against Stoke.
Jol feels he will fill a different role from Zamora, though. "They are both No 9s and of course Bobby did a good job for us and hopefully Pavel can do that same," he said. "Bobby is a different player, more of a link-up player, while Pavel wants to be in the box and on the end of crosses. Keeping him beyond the end of the season is something for us to think about over the next couple of months. There is no option on both sides so we will have to wait and see."
There had been fears Pogrebnyak would be unable to feature at Loftus Road after limping off in the second half of the win against Stoke, but Jol reported him fit to play along with several other doubtfuls. "Most of the injured players are fit," he said. "There are two players out – Steven Sidwell after a small operation and Zdenek Grygera – but the rest are fit for selection. Philippe Senderos, Orlando Sa and Andrew Johnson are all back and Pavel is fit."
Another player returning to action, though with a different reason for his absence, is Cheick Tioté for Newcastle, who welcome Wolves tomorrow – with Alan Pardew warning the managerless visitors not to expect the Ivorian to be suffering from any African Cup of Nations hangover.
The 25-year-old Tioté was part of the Ivory Coast side which went toe-to-toe with Zambia in an enthralling final before ultimately losing 8-7 in a penalty shoot-out. Tioté was so heartbroken that he gave away his loser's medal, and Pardew has revealed some of his club-mates have been made to pay since his return to Tyneside.
Had his midfield enforcer been adversely affected by the experience, the manager was asked? "It doesn't look like it. He has kicked everybody so far, so I think he has got it out of his system this week. One or two of our players have had to take the brunt of that. I think he will be all right [by tomorrow]."
Tioté 's presence in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon meant he missed seven Newcastle games, and while United remain firmly in touch with the Premier League's top four, there is little doubt he was missed in particular at Fulham and Tottenham, where they conceded five times on both occasions.
With Tioté's central midfield partner Yohan Cabaye back after his three-match ban, Pardew is confident of a solid defensive showing. He said: "They are great players – one won the Double last year in France, and the other almost won the African Cup – and they have proven that week in, week out for us. It's important that we put in a performance that justifies where we are in the division."Reuse content