Fulham v Aston Villa preview
Jol and McLeish hoping for perfect start
By Tom Mallows. Last Updated: August 12, 2011 3:53pm
Jol: Back in the Premier League after a four-year absence
Fulham entertain Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on Saturday with Alex McLeish and Martin Jol preparing to lead their new sides in a Premier League game for the first time.
While former Spurs boss Jol was a warmly received replacement for Mark Hughes, McLeish's defection from one side of Birmingham to the other was one of the more surprising and controversial managerial appointments of recent times.
The previously unhappy Villa fans appear to have calmed down for now, but you get the impression the Scot needs to get off to a good start to avoid further grumblings of discontent.
For the Cottagers the season is already a month old, with the club having participated in the Europa League qualifying stages. With those safely negotiated, the fans will hope that extra burst of competitive football will allow them to start the league season with a bang.
Jol has found some time away from the European adventures to do some business in the transfer market, with former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise arriving from Roma, Pajtim Kasami from Palermo and Marcel Gekov from Slovan Liberec.
McLeish, meanwhile, has had to stand and watch two of his most influential players - Ashley Young and Stewart Downing - go through the exit door.
However, new signings Shay Given and Charles N'Zogbia have performed well in pre-season and already look like shrewd purchases by the 52-year-old.
Simon Davies is out for Fulham as he battles to overcome a knee injury. Bobby Zamora will be available for selection despite suffering a broken hand during pre-season.
Steve Sidwell is in line to face his former club while Riise could make his Premier League debut for the Cottagers at left-back.
For Villa, Darren Bent is set to be fit after recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to pull out of the England squad in midweek. Defender James Collins is also expected to start after he missed Wales' match with Australia with a back complaint.
Elsewhere, McLeish has a virtually fully-fit squad to choose from with Rangers target Carlos Cuellar the only absentee.
That means new-boys N'Zogbia and Given are expected to start their first competitive games for the club.
Possible starting XIs
Fulham: Schwarzer, Hughes, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Zamora, Johnson.
Villa: Given, Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Petrov, Makoun, N'Zogbia, Heskey, Agbonlahor, Bent.
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||38||49|
|10||West Ham United||38||46|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||25|