JOHAN Elmander looks set to lose his fitness race to be ready for Saturday’s clash at Fulham.

The striker has missed Wanderers last two games after pulling his hamstring at Newcastle on August 23.

Manager Gary Megson had hoped his £11million club record-signing from Toulouse would be back for the trip to Craven Cottage.

But the 27-year-old Swede, who returned to training last week, is unlikley to recover in time for the weekend.

And, with Matt Taylor still a major doubt after breaking his toe against the Magpies, the Bolton boss will be sweating on the fitness of his international contingent.

Nine Wanderers players are still away with their countries, with new signing Ebi Smolarek (Poland), Jussi Jaaskelainen (Finland), Gretar Steinsson, Heidar Helguson (both Iceland), Joey O’Brien (Republic of Ireland), Tamir Cohen (Israel), Ali Al-Habsi (Oman) involved in World Cup qualifiers tomorrow night, while Ricardo Vaz Te is in action with Portugal Under-21s.

And Megson, who will also be without the suspended Gary Cahill, will be desperate that his already thread-bare squad is not further decimated by any more injury problems.

Meanwhile, Fabrice Muamba, who came off injured playing in England U21s 2-0 defeat of Portugal on Friday night, but is expected to be fit for Saturday, believes that Wanderers can improve on their 16th place finish and move up into the top half of the table.

“This year we know what we want to do but it is in-house,” he said.

“Hopefully we can surprise many people. I’m sure we are looking for a top-10 finish, because this season is going to be very different from last.

“A good team performance and if we do what we need to do, it will be great for us and I’m sure top 10 would be a great ambition for us.”