West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka could be out of action until near the end of the Barclays Premier League relegation run-in if an independent Football Association panel decides his 'quenelle' gesture was racist in nature.
The Frenchman faces a minimum five-match ban after being charged by the FA for the gesture he made after scoring against West Ham on December 28. Anelka insists the 'quenelle' is an anti-establishment gesture, but others say it is widely regarded as being anti-Semitic.
The 34-year-old has denied the charge and requested a personal hearing, which is expected to start next week and run for a few days.
Albion head coach Pepe Mel has revealed Anelka will not be fit enough to face Fulham on Saturday despite returning to training after a shin injury on Thursday, which means the striker may not feature before the FA hands down a verdict.
"Nicolas had his first training session on Thursday so it's impossible that he plays against Fulham," said Spanish coach Mel.
"He is out. He's fit and he's good after the injury but he hasn't trained enough.
"As for the other thing - sorry, I'm the head coach only. I'd like the better outcome for Nicolas and West Brom but I respect the FA and its decision is good for me."
Asked if he was frustrated by the time taken to settle the matter, Mel said: "It's the rules. For me, what's important is that Nicolas was injured (anyway) and it wasn't possible for him to play in recent matches.
"In the future, I don't know."
Struggling Albion are one place above the relegation zone, ahead of Sunderland on goal difference only.
However Mel, who replaced the sacked Steve Clarke last month, remains absolutely certain that they will preserve their Premier League status.
"I am sure, of course," he said.
"West Brom will be playing in the Premier League, I'm sure.
"But more important for me is that the players think that too. I'm the coach, I don't play. That's the players.
"I agree with (captain) Chris Brunt that we need to win five games."
New Fulham manager Felix Magath is confident he can be a fast learner when being thrown in at the deep end of a Barclays Premier League relegation battle.
The 60-year-old German certainly brings a wealth of experience to a first coaching role in England, winning the European Cup as a player at Hamburg and also reaching two World Cup finals with Die Mannschaft in the 1980s.
However, despite delivering the Bundesliga title three times from spells at Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, renowned disciplinarian Magath accepts coming into the cut-and-thrust of a scrap for survival in the most hectic domestic championship of them all is a whole new ball game.
"Sure it is a little bit better if you know all of the players in the league, but over the last year, I have seen many games from England (on television) when I was at home," said Magath, who was comfortable with the departures of Rene Meulensteen, assistant manager Ray Wilkins and first-team technical director Alan Curbishley in a clean break of Fulham's support staff.
"I have played against English clubs and also the national team, for clubs I have managed against English teams, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester (United).
"I don't know as much about the players as you, but I think I know enough from England, the Premier League and from football."
The likes of Iran international winger Ashkan Dejagah, defender Sascha Riether and on-loan midfielder Lewis Holtby have all worked with Magath before.
The new Fulham boss intends to fully examine the depth of his squad, who have been given extra fitness sessions ahead of the trip to the Hawthorns.
"I have to cut down the number of players in the team (squad) because we have to concentrate and get together," he said.
"If we have too many players, then we have too many influences.
"Sorry for that, but it is the only way to concentrate, to focus on the next game.
"If the player has not been here long enough to accept the English way of playing English football, then I cannot use him."
Magath added: "I don't care if a player has been here 20 years or two months, that does not play a role.
"I only have to see how they can play, what he is willing to do and I just have to put 11 players together to work as well as they can together.
"We will have a chance if every player helps each other and if we do, then I think we are on the right way."