Tim Ream will miss out on Fulham’s first Premier League game for four years tomorrow after picking up an injury in training.

The absence of the American, who was voted the club’s player of the season during last year’s promotion-winning campaign, will be keenly felt at Craven Cottage with Denis Odoi, his regular central defensive partner in the second half of the season, suspended and new signing Alfie Mawson still recovering from injury. It could see England international Calum Chambers partnering French defender Maxime Le Marchand, a summer arrival from Nice, at the heart of Slavisa Jokanovic’s defence.

Jokanovic revealed a number of his first-team squad will be unavailable for the opening game of the season against Crystal Palace during his press conference this afternoon:

Tomorrow first of all I cannot use Denis Odoi, he is suspended. Alfie Mawson still hasn’t started working with us, and probably Tim Ream is injured too, so I can’t use him either. Floyd Ayite is injured as well.

The Serbian head coach insisted he is not expecting to have any problems when it comes to selecting his starting line-up given the number of options at his disposal. He has already made clear to his players that hard work at Motspur Park will be crucial in ensuring they force their way into his plans.

I will give them the chance to compete to play in the Premier League. My job stops at 11 [players] and the bench, this is my job, people pay me to make these decisions. I am not Santa Claus, I don’t need to make anybody happy. I try to make it hard, with great competition between my players. This is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and presents don’t exist, they need to fight in training.

Jokanovic is certainly not underestimating the challenge that Fulham will face tomorrow from Crystal Palace, led by the former Whites’ boss Roy Hodgson.

Crystal Palace is a Premier League ready team, definitely with more experience than us at this level. They know they are dangerous in this offensive side, between [Christian] Benteke, [Wilfried] Zaha and [Andros] Townsend. On the other side, we must care about [Luka] Milivojevic too, who is a good player. Many things depend on this guy, we did analysis of this team and I hope that we are ready.

We must be clever and modify a few things, we are going to play against different qualities, different pace, different power. We don’t need to change too much, but enough to know what we are going to find in this competition. It is always important that we grow, and we need to grow up from last season.

The Fulham head coach also refused to be drawn into predicting where his side would finish – telling the press that his focus was on trying to take three points from the first game and doing everything possible to try and keep the club in the top flight.

Our principal target is to stay up. This is a famous question from the press, where are we going to finish, and we haven’t even started yet. I prefer working step by step, all of us will have more information after the first game and it is better for us to think this way. At the end of the season we will see our level and where we can improve for the future.

It is very exciting, a great experience for us, my first experience of coaching at this level. It’s probably a dream for all coaches to have this opportunity, and I’m going to push to be successful. We are trying to build a Premier League team. We are trying to be competitive at this level.