Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola has again been putting his men through their paces ahead of Tuesday night's showdown with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Boleyn Ground.

The squad had reported for training early on Sunday eager to focus fully on what was required in the week ahead. The sunny skies over Chadwell Heath were hardly noticed as the players considered the importance of good preparation.

The manager is set to have a number of players back in contention for the potentially-decisive Wolves fixture - one of five home matches in the final eight games - including Scott Parker and Carlton Cole. Parker was absent as a precaution from Saturday's defeat at Arsenal while Cole had a late cameo.


The 2-0 reverse at the Emirates was a frustrating one for the manager after his team had offered much in the first half and, but for a saved Alessandro Diamanti penalty, would have gone in at the break level-pegging with a man advantage. Zola was looking ahead rather than back though on Monday.

"We have two very important home games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City [on Saturday] and I am confident we can get two good results. We know they will both be difficult matches but they are teams on our level and we must take heart from our performance against Arsenal.

"The first half at the Emirates Stadium was an indication of how we can compete with the best but we will have to produce a performance like that over 90 minutes if we are to be successful."

One player deserving of special mention was striker Mido, who the manager believed was getting stronger and stronger. "His attitude has been brilliant and that is the reason why he is playing. He has been working hard."

Returning to reflect on the game as a whole, he concluded: "It was not to be against Arsenal and it feels like a missed opportunity - especially after a first half which was probably our brightest of the season against a team who, along with Barcelona, are playing the best football in Europe."

As well as Parker and Cole, Zola is assessing Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer, Jack Collison, Mark Noble and Benni McCarthy. The latter duo both appeared off the bench on Saturday and would seem the most likely to force their way into the starting lineup while Manuel da Costa will serve the last match of his three-game ban.

"I am very confident and we have a lot of players coming back to fitness in the squad," Zola added. "I know my players are determined to do well and show their ability.

"They know it will be a big crowd on Tuesday and will be up for the battle. It will be a challenge from the first whistle and we will be doing our best. The fan backing will be massively important for us.

"Make no mistake, I am not pleased at all to see us in this position.In these moments though, we have to keep our composure. We need to do the right things at the right time and not get too emotional. Otherwise you cannot improve the situation.

"After the weekend, the table hasn't changed too much which is a good thing. However, I am only thinking about my team and what we have to do. Everything is up to us and I will take a lot of positives into Tuesday night."