Scott Parker expects Aleksandar Mitrovic to recover from a hamstring problem in time for Fulham’s Championship play-off final showdown with Brentford.
The injury kept Fulham’s top scorer out of of both semi-final legs.
“I’m hopeful,” Whites boss Parker said after his side got past Cardiff 3-2 on aggregate.
“He was close tonight, but not good enough. It would have been a massive risk.
“We pushed and pushed, the medical team had done everything they could, but he just wasn’t ready.
“Now we have some time, so we’re going to do what we can to get him out there. He’ll be working now, get treatment, and be out on the grass.”
Having led 2-0 from the first leg in Wales, the Whites fell behind early on at Craven Cottage before Neeskens Kebano scored his fifth goal in four games and restored the aggregate lead immediately afterwards.
Parker’s men looked nervy at times, especially after substitute Lee Tomlin scored shortly after the restart, though they were able to sustain the Bluebirds’ pressure and held on to reach their second play-off final in three seasons.
“Overall, we’ve got ourselves to the final and that’s an incredible achievement, in terms of it being a long, drawn-out season,” Parker said.
“That was the 48th [league] game tonight. The goal was to get to the final, and we’ve done that.
“The performance tonight was tough and Cardiff made it very difficult for us. They came here tonight as a wounded animal after the first leg. You saw the difference in the two teams with a bit of edginess to us.
“They had nothing to lose tonight. If they win the game, they’re heroes, and we sensed that with the way they play. They constantly put you under pressure by putting the ball in the box from literally all over the pitch.
“At times tonight, we didn’t deal with that well enough and we recognise that.
“In the end, it was about the mentality, the mind-set, rolling your sleeves up.
“You need to do all you can to win this game, because at the end of it is a massive prize. It’s the prize which we want, a chance to try and get into the big league.”
When asked about Fulham’s chances against their local rivals, Parker was adamant that both sides’ recent results mattered little in determining which west London outfit will reach the top flight.
“Brentford are a very good side,” he said. “When you play in this league, you always need to step up and produce performances.
“But a final’s a final. Form goes out the window. We’ll go into this game fully prepared, regather and recoup, and go from there.”