Hughes headache for Jol

Defender doubtful to face Villa, but Diarra could start

Aaron Hughes: Struggling with a calf complaint ahead of trip to Aston Villa

Mahamadou Diarra: Has impressed Martin Jol in training

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Fulham boss Martin Jol has revealed that Aaron Hughes is a 'big doubt' to face Aston Villa on Saturday, but has hinted at a first start for Mahamadou Diarra.

Northern Ireland international Hughes is nursing a calf problem and faces a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of a weekend trip to Villa Park.

Jol is refusing to rule the experienced defender out, but appreciates he will have to put a back-up plan in place.

The Dutch coach is already preparing to shuffle his pack, despite seeing Fulham pick up three straight wins, and that means former Real Madrid midfielder Diarra could come into contention.

"Aaron Hughes has got a little problem with his left calf and withdrew from training," said Jol.

Training

"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 per cent or 90 per cent fit and now it's a decision to make if he starts or let him come on again."

One man expected to figure from the start on Saturday is Pavel Pogrebnyak, with the Russian striker having netted five times in three appearances since joining Fulham in January.

Jol admits he took a gamble on the 28-year-old when snapping him up from Stuttgart, but says being a manager is all about taking calculated risks.

Asked why no-one else had set their sights on Pogrebnyak, Jol said: "It is very easy. He only scored one in 18 and wasn't always playing.

Targets

"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."