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Frei returns to Fulham training

Kerim Frei completed his first full training session with Fulham’s senior squad this morning as he continues to step up his recovery from a pelvis injury that has sidelined him for much of this season.

The Turkish international has started just two games for Martin Jol’s side this season due to a number of niggling injuries and has been out of action since Fulham’s third round FA Cup draw with Blackpool on January 5. The teenage winger, who is expected to be available for first team football again within the next fortnight, burst onto the scene last season with a string of eye-catching performances after making his first domestic start at Chelsea in the League Cup.

Frei, who spent a month on loan at Championship side Cardiff last October, will need to fight off challenges from Ashkan Dejagah, Damien Duff and Alex Kacaniklic to regain a place in Jol’s starting line-up. Jol is quoted as saying:

Frei has had a little problem with his abductor. That is awkward for a young guy. He’s an explosive player and it’s been irritating him for six months.

Riether relishing Stoke return

Sascha Riether has returned to full training and is hoping to regain his place in the Fulham side for the visit of Stoke City on 23 February.

The German right back withdrew from the squad on the morning of Fulham’s 0-0 draw at Norwich City on Saturday after falling ill, forcing Martin Jol to summon new signing Stanislav Manolev up from London to make his debut at short notice. It was the first fixture Riether had missed since moving to London on loan from FC Köln in the summer and Riether is ready to resume his superb season on the right side of Fulham’s back four.

Yes, it was frustrating. But I am fine now and will be available for selection against Stoke City.

The 29 year-old has been delighted with the success of his loan spell and says he’s really enjoying his time with Fulham.

For me, it’s been a great time at Fulham so far. It was my first experience of another country and it was a big step for me to come to England. But I have to say Fulham is like a family and I like playing here. The fans are great, I like the stadium and it’s been all good so far.

Riether has also welcomed the addition of Manolev, who had a solid debut at Norwich, insisting that additional competition for places can only lead to better performances.

It’s always important for a team that you don’t just have 11 players. We have more than 20 players here who can play and who want to play. It’s a long season and we have many games so it’s important that if players are out injured or suspended, we have others who can fit in without a problem.

Diarra poised to return to training

Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra will take part in his first training session for two and a half months at Motspur Park as he steps up his recovery from a knee injury.

The Mali midfielder had been nursing an injury ever since returning to international football with his country in September and last featured for Fulham during their 3-0 home defeat to Tottenham on December. Diarra missed Mali’s participation in the African Cup of Nations even though his national side insisted on including him in their preliminary squad for the tournament before accepting medical reports from Fulham that showed the 31 year-old would be unable to take part.

Injuries have restricted Diarra, who isn’t expected to return to match sharpness for around another month, to just eight appearances for Martin Jol’s side this season as he has struggled to build on his promising start to his Fulham career having signed on a short-term deal last February after being released by Monaco. Fulham have had to rely on former free agent Giorgos Karagounis to fill the void left by Diarra’s absence and Jol has added to his midfield options by bringing in Emmanuel Frimpong and Urby Emmanuelson on loan during the January transfer window.

Jol wants injury rule changed

Martin Jol has called for a change in the law after Fulham’s forwards were forced off by robust challenges from Norwich City defenders in the goalless draw at Carrow Road.

The Fulham manager felt his side were placed at an unfair disadvantage when Dimitar Berbatov had to leave the field after being caught by a high boot from Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson in the early stages of the encounter. The Bulgarian international was bloodied by Johnson’s challenge and needed stitches. Jol’s frustrations only increased when Hugo Rodallega required treatment on the field after a tackle from behind by Elliott Bennett – and the Colombian forward was subsequently sent to the sidelines.

The Dutch coach is calling from a change in the law to prevent teams from being at a numerical disadvantage through no fault of their own:

I get very irritated by that, when someone kicks you and you have to go off for five minutes. Later, Hugo Rodallega was also kicked and he had to go off, and they played again 11 against 10.

We have got to change that because it is an awful rule. You should send their player away as well for five minutes and play 10 against 10.

Hangeland hails defensive display

Brede Hangeland chose to take the positives from Fulham’s draw at Norwich this afternoon – highlighting an improved defensive display as a reason to be cheerful.

The Fulham captain braved an Achilles injury to line up at the heart of the Fulham defence despite being substituted at half time during the defeat by Manchester United last weekend and was delighted that Martin Jol’s side managed to withstand a late onslaught from the Canaries to record their first clean sheet since November.

I’m very pleased we didn’t concede a goal – it’s been too long since we kept a clean sheet so that’s good. We obviously would’ve liked to win this game and I thought, looking back on it, we should have done a little bit better with all our possession and created some more pieces, but I suppose we’re quite happy to take a point home.

Like his manager, Hangeland was disappointed that Fulham weren’t able to convert their dominance of possession into a few more clear cut chances.

I thought we played well up to a certain point. We didn’t really ask too many questions of their goalkeeper so that’s something to work on. We looked solid as a team and we didn’t concede any goals so that’s a positive.

We’ll take any points we can get. A lot of teams around us lost today so we’ve gone one more point ahead of a few of the teams towards the bottom of the table.

The Norwegian international is now looking forward to recuperating over the course of a two-week break before Fulham return to action with a tough test against Stoke City at Craven Cottage on February 23. Hangeland hopes to have fully recovered from the Achilles injury that put his participation at Carrow Road in doubt.

I’ll take a break as I’ve been struggling with an injury for the past few days so I’ll need a few days to recover probably, so hopefully these two weeks now will do us a lot of good and we’ll be firing on all cylinders in two weeks time. There’s some injuries you can play with if you are willing to take a little bit of pain and that was the case today.