Lawrie Sanchez believes the hectic Christmas schedule will determine Fulham’s season.

The Cottagers host Newcastle on Saturday, the first of five matches in 17 days for them – a run that also includes fixtures against fellow strugglers Wigan, Tottenham and Birmingham.

Only goal difference separates Fulham from the Barclays Premier League relegation zone, and Sanchez views the coming weeks as an opportunity to climb the table.

“It’s a great month, December – it makes or breaks your season,” he said. “Around FA Cup time in January, you know what type of season you’re really having – and I’m confident we’ll do well in the games over the Christmas period.

“We’ve got one or two players coming back from injury who I hope will join in and help us. We’ll have one or two coming in the January transfer window as well. I’m really looking forward to this period of games.”

Sanchez completed a radical overhaul of his squad during the summer in response to previous relegation battles and maintains the players are still bedding in.

But the former Northern Ireland coach admits other reasons have also contributed to Fulham’s precarious position in the table.

“We need more leaders on the field, because we have a lot of international captains in the squad,” he said. “We have a very young team, and most of the players are new to each other. They’re a bit worried about upsetting their team-mates by pointing and shouting, but you do need that sometimes.

“Off the field for me, maybe I need to change the tactics slightly by bringing on people who can close the game off rather than offensive players. We need to show more mental resilience – and if the players can do that, we’ll get over this spell and will look back on it as part of the learning process. The learning process needs to be turned into the achieving process as soon as possible; if we do that we’ll pick up points.”