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Nice in talks over Le Marchand return

Nice are in talks with Fulham over the possible return of their former defender Maxime Le Marchand on loan, according to reports in France.

Le Marchand made 77 appearances in three seasons with Les Aiglons before joining the Whites in July 2018. Nice are seeking short-term defensive cover Brazilian centre half Dante picked up an untimely knee injury and would value a signing with significant Ligue 1 experience, which their young set of defenders currently lack.

The 31 year-old, who helped Fulham win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt last season, has made just four first-team appearances this term having been usurped by summer signings Ola Aina, Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo as Scott Parker reshaped a failing defence. His only league start came in the 1-0 defeat by Wolves at the start of October. It is understood that the proposed loan deal would not include a purchase option. The versatile defender has made 48 appearances in two and half seasons at Craven Cottage.

Parker reveals Cairney injury issues

Scott Parker hopes that another knee injury won’t keep Fulham captain Tom Cairney on the sidelines for too long.

The Scottish international has not featured since Fulham’s 1-1 draw at Newcastle back in December and the Fulham manager is determined not to rush his playmaker back before he is fully fit. Cairney has made eleven appearances this term and has showed signs, particularly in the 2-0 win over West Brom in November, of recapturing some of his best form. Speaking at today’s press conference ahead of the forthcoming meeting with Manchester United, Parker said:

“We’re hoping he’ll be back before too long. He’s got an ongoing issue which is more of a management issue really in the sense of it’s been going on for some months now, and it probably will be ongoing for some weeks and months. It’s an issue that came up in a friendly game a few months ago that we had at the training ground, and he’s been nursing it a bit. It’s got to the point where it’s little bit irritable and it’s holding him back.”

“I think it just depends when we can get Tom to a comfortable level and push him on from there and see how he reacts. I’m hoping it won’t be too much longer but, at the same time, that may be the case.”

Cairney, who has made 217 appearances in five and a half years at Craven Cottage, has a history of serious knee injuries. He was badly injured when playing for Hull as a teenager and missed significant periods of Fulham’s 2017/2018 promotion campaign having been sidelined by a significant knee problem. The good news is that this injury is affecting the 29 year-old’s other knee, but it is clearly too early to put a date on his return to action.

Parker pleased Fulham aren’t Premier League’s ‘laughing stock’

Scott Parker is delighted with Fulham’s dramatic recent improvement – claiming that side are no longer ‘the laughing stock’ of the Premier League ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting with Manchester United.

The Fulham manager has ambitious goals for the remainder of the season and remains confident that his side can beat the drop. Parker feels that a combination of their poor displays in their last top flight season and a dreadful start to this campaign meant his charges were written off by the pundits far too easily.

We’ve done remarkably well considering where we were at the start of the season. We were probably a laughing stock in terms of how people were portraying us. But never was that the case in house, never was that the case from myself or the players.

It was clear, wasn’t it? There was a narrative around us at the start of the season, a narrative that was helped by our previous time in this division. We lost two games by more than two goals and that narrative was instantly in people’s heads. ‘Oh look, it’s the same Fulham, that’s what’s going to happen this time around.’

Parker admits he has used some of the punditocracy’s predictions as motivation for his squad, but reiterated that his side have enough quality to stay in the top flight. Whilst many have commented on how the young manager has reshaped his team by switching to three centre backs, Parker insists his team still play stylish possession football that is easy on the eye.

People were blurred a little bit by what happened the last time we were here and I can understand why. It was certainly an area we needed to address to have a chance of doing well. It was clear, everyone was along the same lines, that it was going to be tough for us. We’ve done remarkably well to be able to fight and punch our weight. We’re not just doing it with determination and grit but with a real style about us, and it’s clear people can see a real drastic improvement in our game. But it’s coming down to results now. We’ve got a lot of draws and we need to turn them into wins to stay in this division.

Parker’s side were unfortunate to see their impressive six-match unbeaten run come to an end against Chelsea at the weekend, with the Whites being reduced to ten men on the stroke of half-time. Another stern test awaits on Wednesday as league leaders Manchester United visit Craven Cottage, before two crucial clashes against relegation rivals Brighton and West Brom.

Loftus-Cheek feels Fulham have made ‘massive progress’

Ruben Loftus-Cheek believes Fulham have made ‘massive, massive progress’ since the start of his loan spell at Craven Cottage – and can’t wait to get back amongst the action against Manchester United tomorrow night.

The England international had to watch the derby defeat by his parent club Chelsea from the sidelines, but feels there are plenty of positives the Whites can take from both that game and the draw with Tottenham into the meeting with Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side. Loftus-Cheek told FFCTV that those performances have really helped raise the confidence of the squad:

I think we did very well. Going away to Spurs is not an easy game. Going behind after starting well and them scoring a very good goal, to keep playing the way we did and go up another level in the second half, get the goal and we thought we could have gone on and won the game very comfortably. That performance was fantastic for the team as a whole and good for confidence for myself.

You want to keep the momentum going, but obviously Fulham couldn’t play me against Chelsea. But I watched them and I thought the boys were fantastic. Up to the sending off, we were doing really well, had chances to score early on. You can’t fault the boys in that game and hopefully we can carry on this form into the next game.

I want to get going, get back on the pitch and keep this momentum going with the team and with myself. I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t think we are going into these games with big teams thinking it is going to be a really difficult game. We are giving these teams a tough time – we are hard to break down and good going forward. I think we can see these games as a chance to get points. That’s just how we feel at the minute.

I think defensively we’ve made massive, massive progress. As a team, we’re so hard to break down, so hard to score against. The fans watching can see how diligent we are in our defensive work and how we work for one another as a team. I think now we need to be more clinical in front of goal. I think we can get that down and keep the defensive side, we’ll be a very difficult team to play.

Mitrovic fit for United return

Aleksandar Mitrovic could return to Fulham’s starting line up against Manchester United after recovering from a hamstring injury and returning to training.

The Serbian striker, who has struggled for form and fitness of late, has participated fully in this week’s training sessions at Motspur Park after missing the derby defeat by Chelsea having injured his hamstring in the FA Cup victory over QPR. Fulham boss Scott Parker told his pre-match press conference that he expects Mitrovic to play a key role in the club’s survival bid:

“He hurt his hamstring against QPR but he’ll be back tomorrow night. He’ll be the first to say this season has been a struggle in terms of form. He can help us win matches. At present I’ve gone with other people but this is a Premier League squad with healthy competition. Top players thrive on that pressure and competition. Mitro will do the same. He needs to to get into this team and more importantly score goals like I know he can.”

Parker will also be able to include Mario Lemina in his matchday squad after the on-loan Southampton midfielder shook off the after effects of coronavirus and returned to training, but will have to do without Terence Kongo for ‘a few weeks’ after the Dutch defender suffered another injury setback.

“Terence Kongolo has picked up a knock but it’s nothing too serious. He’s the only one really. He got a bit of knock in training the day before the Chelsea game and felt his hamstring. When players have had long lay-offs there’s a balance between work and not getting injured again, and he’s not been lucky.”

Parker, who reiterated that he was ‘immensely proud’ of his side’s efforts having been reduced to ten men against Chelsea, is now targeting victories as Fulham look to move away from the relegation zone in the coming weeks.

“That’s the next big challenge for us really. We’ve been able to stay in games, give ourselves a platform and be more solid as a team. The fine margins of this division means we need to take our chances. When you look at the numbers in an attacking sense we’re holding our own. But we need to turn draws into wins. We’ll keep pushing and get on the end of some good results.”

The Fulham head coach will also like more additions to his squad, especially in forward areas, to boost their survival aspirations.

“It’s a difficult window. We have one recognised striker in the building in Mitrovic. We understand where we’re a bit light but I also understand this a tough window. Time’s not on our side. We’ll work relentlessly hard to try and improve our attacking play to get on the right end of results.”

Fulham eye Dia deal

Fulham are the latest Premier League side to join the race to sign Reims striker Boulaye Dia, according to reports in France this evening.

The 24 year-old forward has scored twelve goals in eighteen league games for Reims this season and currently leads the Ligue 1 scoring charts. The Senegalese international had been widely tipped to move to Olympique Marseilles, but an overseas switch seems more likely given the crippling affect of the coronavirus pandemic on French football finances. West Ham also hold a longstanding interest in Dia, but the Hammers are also considering a number of other targets to replace the recently departed Sebastien Haller.

Le10Sport reports that both Fulham and Crystal Palace have been in touch with Dia’s representatives to gauge the player’s interest in a potential move to London and understand what sort of terms he would be requesting. No official approach has been made by either party, but both are expected to table offers well before the close of the transfer window.

Fulham’s need for striking reinforcements is well established, with Scott Parker using his post-match press conference following Saturday’s defeat by Chelsea to urge the club to conclude a deal for a new forward well in advance of the transfer deadline. The Londoners have also been linked with moves for Dwight Gayle and Josh King in recent days, whilst reports this afternoon claimed that they had failed in an ambitious attempt to bring Moussa Dembele back to Craven Cottage.

Dia has scored 24 goals in 69 games since making his professional debut for Reims in October 2018. His fine form for Reims earned a first international call-up to the senior Senegal squad last year and Dia made his debut in a 3-1 friendly defeat to Morocco. Reims, who are reportedly struggling to be able to pay their first-team squad beyond the end of this month, are believed to be holding out for a fee of around £15m for his services, with a number of European clubs rumoured to be tracking the striker’s progress.