Martin Jol believes Fulham could finish in top six

 

Martin Jol believes there is a chance Fulham could yet sneak into the top six this season.

The Cottagers are in the midst of a three-game winning streak that has propelled them to eighth in the Barclays Premier League.

Fulham face struggling Aston Villa on Saturday as they look to extend their purple patch and keep the pressure on the teams above them.

The west Londoners are three points off Liverpool and eight behind sixth-placed Newcastle, both of whom are in manager Jol's sights after a rapid rise away from the relegation zone.

"Our target is still 40 or 41 points and then we try to get as high as possible in the league," said the Dutchman.

"If you are very positive then there is Newcastle or Liverpool ahead of us.

"If you are realistic, there is still a lot of good teams around us so hopefully we could end up in the top 10.

"It depends on a lot of things. Clint Dempsey is important, Mousa Dembele, Pavel Pogrebnyak is important, Danny Murphy, Brede Hangeland, so if everyone stays fit we'll get better and better and hopefully we can do something which is nice.

"Maybe it is a bit different this year because last season it was very awkward as three of the four bottom clubs - even in the last month - escaped.

"Only West Ham were relegated from the group so that was an awful season for the likes of Birmingham, who won the Carling Cup and still got relegated.

"It is a bit different now because the gap is a lot bigger this year, which is good.

"At this stage last year the gap between Fulham and the bottom three was four points and now we're 13 or 14 points off so that is the relief."

Fulham's recent run of good form has coincided with Pogrebnyak's introduction to the side.

The Russia international joined on transfer deadline day to help fill the void left by Bobby Zamora's move to QPR, although few could have predicted his impact.

Pogrebnyak has netted five goals in his first three Fulham appearances, leading many to ponder why nobody else made a move for the Stuttgart striker.

When asked why other clubs did not take a chance on him, Jol said: "It is very easy. He only scored one in 18 and wasn't always playing.

"In England you want the best and they probably thought he was not good enough for their teams or had other targets.

"He was on my list for the last couple of years and I knew he was the type of player who could fit in with us and we were lucky to get him.

"You have to look at good players who are probably not doing so well at that time.

"Yakubu at Everton was the same and Blackburn got him on the cheap, but he has scored 13 or 14 goals.

"You need a bit of luck but you need to be confident of their quality. That is what Blackburn did and that is what we did with Pavel."

Pogrebnyak looks set to make his fourth appearance for Fulham when they travel to Villa Park on Saturday.

The Cottagers will be without Stephen Kelly, Steve Sidwell and long-term absentee Zdenek Grygera due to injury, although Bryan Ruiz returns from a virus.

Jol revealed Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes is a "big doubt" for the match and suggested recent signing Mahamadou Diarra could make his first start.

"Aaron Hughes has got a little problem with his left calf and withdrew from training," he said. "Hopefully he can be involved but he is a big doubt.

"With Diarra, you could see that he needs a couple of games and it's not easy to say 'play two or three games and get 90 minutes'.

"In training he looks good, he's probably 80% or 90% fit and now it's a decision to make if he starts or let him come on again."

PA

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