A relaxed Slavisa Jokanovic believes his in-form Fulham side are not feeling the heat of the promotion race and insisted all the pressure is on second-placed Cardiff City.
The Fulham head coach still feels his side are big outsiders to win automatic promotion from the Championship with the Bluebirds have built up an eight point lead over the Londoners. Jokanovic told his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Derby County that his squad were full of confidence as they head to Pride Park having gone twelve games unbeaten.
Listen, I am not under any pressure. there is pressure for Derby, for Cardiff, for Aston Villa, I can’t gain a position, and if I do they will have to lose. People ask me if we can be promoted. If we want to be promoted we must finish first or second, even third or fourth and at the end they must be under pressure and fighting for these places in front of them.
We are relaxed and ready for [the] fight. Eights point is a huge number of points, they are in fantastic position and we are going to try, but they must lose the games for us to catch this position. It will depend on us, but we can win all the games but at the end of the season if they win all the games there won’t be any solution for us. They are under pressure and that is I how observe this situation.
In the build-up to another crucial clash, Derby defender Curtis Davies has voiced his hope that Fulham might underestimate the Rams on account of their indifferent run of form – but Jokanovic won’t be doing anything of the sort.
It’s a tough opponent. They are fighting for promotion and the play-offs, like us. They are a team with strengths and weaknesses, like us. We must be focused, concentrate and show ambition to win the game. An important week is in front of us. The first really important step is against a team who, at the moment, made a better job than us.
They are on one more point than us. We must respect them and trust in our possibility to push hard and fight for three points. I am always worried about the opposition team, but in my hands is my team and the preparation of my team is more important, to share and give them information about what they can expect against different opponents.
Saturday’s trip to the Midlands will see Jokanovic reunited with Czech striker Matej Vydra, who scored fourteen goals in 2014-2015 as the Serbian head coach led Watford to the Premier League. The Fulham boss is well aware of the danger that Vydra, who has seventeen goals to his name for Derby this term, will pose at the weekend.
Matej Vydra is [the Championship’s] top scorer, a very good player, I am aware of his quality. We have a special plan for that, he is part of this team and can be very dangerous for us and we must be careful.
Jokanovic confirmed that he has no new injury worries ahead of the trip to Pride Park and his biggest selection dilemma may be over who to field up front. Aleksandr Mitrovic, fresh from two goals in his last two appearances, will be favourite after his excellent strike against Wolves and the Fulham head coach has been delighted with the different option the on-loan Newcastle striker has given his side.
He’s scored only two goals with us, we expect he can score more and work harder still. He can support the team and he can be a really important player. We were looking for this kind of striker for a long time and in the end we found someone who I believe can be very important for our team.
The Serbian is confident that his striking options and the unforgiving nature of the Championship run-in will afford Mitrovic, Aboubakar Kamara and Rui Fonte opportunities to feature in the crucial final weeks of the campaign.
Aboubakar [Kamara] scored eight goals, Rui Fonte scored goals too. Many games are in front of us and I expect all of them are going to fight in every training session for a position in the starting eleven.