Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic is demanding a positive approach from his men as they look to give Newcastle United a nightmare on their return to the Sky Bet Championship tonight.
The Magpies, relegated from the Premier League in May, are favourites to go straight back up, bu former boss Jokanovic is relishing the chance to give Rafa Benitez’s men an early shock to the system in this evening’s televised clash at Craven Cottage (7,45pm kick-off).
“It’s the start of the Championship and it’s a good moment at the beginning to play against a strong team,” Jokanovic told fulhamfc.com.
“They are a clear example of how complicated this competition is going to be.
“They invested a lot of money and there’s a lot of expectation in front of them.
“At the same time, we are a big club too and we’re going to arrive with similar ambition to Newcastle.
“It’s a great moment for us to open this competition against a very important team. We’re playing at our home, in front of our supporters, and we have to be strong and approach it in a positive way.
“It’s a very strong league.
“It’s very exciting, it’s very hard, very tough. There are many big names in this competition, we are a big name too. I arrived here because I want to be successful, and this is a great chance for me to work at a big club like Fulham. Around us are many important names and we have to be ready to compete against them.”
The Londoners go into the game in good heart following an excellent pre-season, which brought six wins and a draw.
But Jokanovic warned his men: “Pre-season is over.
“I believe the players did a great job on the training ground and we made some interesting results in pre-season, but we are on zero points in the Championship right now. Now we start with a really important game. I believe the players understand very well what we need to do to compete this year. It will be different to last year.”
Aston Villa yesterday signed Fulham striker Ross McCormack, who was linked with Newcastle earlier ths summer.
Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo, whose side start their Championship campaign at Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, said: “I’m delighted to bring Ross on board. He’s a player with proven track record and plenty of experience in the division.
“He is a player whose goalscoring record has been excellent everywhere he has been and we feel he can be an important addition.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle had a dreadful away record in last season’s relegation, and new skipper Jamaal Lascelles knows a big improvement is required on the road.
“I don’t fear it at all – I’ve not even thought about it,” said the former Nottingham Forest defender.
“We’ve got to go into every game thinking we’re going to win. We can’t get complacent and take our foot off the gas, because the Championship’s a hard league.
“We can’t look at the opposition and think ‘Fulham can do this, or that’.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on our job and go to every game and have the right attitude in every match.”