Game preview - Stoke City (h)

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Moussa Dembele of Stoke City breaks from Rory Delap of Stoke City during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at Britannia Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Two games have passed since he signed on the dotted line, but maybe Saturday's tie against Stoke City will be the prime opportunity for Pavel Pogrebnyak to get a true feeling of English football. He's a player out of form and out of sorts, but Martin Jol has palpably seen something within the Russian international that makes him a worthy replacement for the departed Bobby Zamora. We've yet to see it, of course, but there are few better débuts to have than a home tie against similar opposition - especially when you consider the quality of last week's opponents.

Stoke will, undoubtedly, be their usual, resistive selves. Pogrebnyak, or 'The Pog' as he is being pleasantly nicknamed, will be up against a very tight defence on Saturday, if he plays. Were he to get himself on the score sheet, though, that and his comical self-description of being 'manful', will probably put him at some sort of cult level among Fulham fans with immediate effect.

As we've come to expect now of Tony Pulis' side, Stoke have been overly consistent so far this season, and again find themselves in a comfortable 12th place. They've had more worries this season than they've perhaps become accustomed to but Pulis has been easily able to ride out the storm.

Of course, Pulis and Stoke come hand in hand with the ideology of kick-and-rush football, and while it's difficult to deny that their football is based around such tactical ideals, the fact that they sit cosily, 10 points clear of the drop, speaks its own story. Jol, however, can find solace in the fact that the majority of sides that have fought their way past The Potters during this campaign have done so playing neat, attractive football.

Stoke's Premier League form has been poor of late - they find themselves without a win in four and they have lost their last three. Yet they have beaten Derby County in that time and their draw was at Anfield.

Fulham haven't won since their 5-2 defeat of Newcastle United, but have no domestic or European cups to bother their journey. A draw with West Bromwich Albion kicked off a disappointing February so far, before a 3-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium which was a mere reflection of the bitterly cold and horrible conditions.

In the reverse fixture in October, Jol's men travelled to the Britannia Stadium and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat. Jonathan Walters and Rory Delap grabbed late goals for the home side. Last season at the Cottage, Mark Hughes led Fulham to a 2-0 victory.

Pulis will have to put together a new-look defence after key component Robert Huth picked up a red card last week, thus ruling him out of Saturday's tie. Stoke appealed the decision but it was upheld.

Jol will also have to make some defensive changes with Phillipe Senderos suffering a groin strain. Aaron Hughes will probably take his place. Steve Sidwell is out and Zdenek Grygera is a long term absentee, but Pavel Pogrebnyak is clear to feature.

Predicted line-up: Schwarzer; Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Kelly; Dempsey. Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; Ruiz, Pogrebnyak

Score prediction: Fulham 1-0 Stoke

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