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AP - Sports

Apologies aren't going to save Fulham from relegation. The return of Clint Dempsey, however, just might.

Dempsey is expected to be available for selection as the Cottagers attempt to rebound from their heaviest Premier League defeat by beating West Ham United on New Year's Day.

Fulham (5-1-13) are in the thick of the relegation battle, and their latest performance may not have inspired much confidence in that changing any time soon.

Two days after beating Norwich City 2-1, the Cottagers were dealt a 6-0 thumping at Hull City on Saturday for their most lopsided defeat in the Premier League. It also tied their heaviest all-time defeat, suffered against Port Vale in the third division on March 28, 1987.

The latest effort included allowing all of Hull's goal in the second half, and led to apologies from manager Rene Meulensteen and defender John Arne Riise.

"I'd just like to apologise to all the fans," Riise told the team's official website. "They deserved more than that, we let them down."

Fulham may continue doing that if they're unable to capitalize on their upcoming fixtures. After hosting West Ham (3-6-10), the Whites travel to Sunderland for another meeting with a relegation rival Jan. 11.

Meulensteen is well aware of the importance of keeping his squad focused.

"We need to make sure we don't look back, shrug it off and be ready to react against West Ham United on New Year's Day," he said. "Don't let it play on our up-and-coming games. We have two very big matches coming up."

Getting Dempsey back could give Fulham the lift they're looking for.

The United States international was re-signed on a two-month loan from Seattle. He had 60 goals in 225 games with the Cottagers from 2007-2012, and should be available for selection with the transfer window opening prior to the match.

"It feels good to be back," Dempsey said. "This has always felt like my home in Europe. Just excited to be back, and be a part of this team and this league."

Dempsey has two goals in his past four matches against the Hammers, who have surrendered 14 during an 0-2-4 stretch.

They've conceded three goals in each of the past three matches, including Saturday's 3-3 draw with West Brom. West Ham, however, suffered a serious blow early, when James Tomkins was subbed off with a groin strain in the 11th minute.

Tomkins isn't ruled out of the trip to West London, but he joins an injury list that includes fellow defenders James Collins and Winston Reid, midfielders Ravel Morrison and Stewart Downing and forwards Andy Carroll and Ricardo Vaz Te.

"My problem is that this is a team that's going to play Fulham on New Year's day that's depleted at the minute," manager Sam Allardyce told the team's official website. "My problem is making sure we recover these players as quickly as we can and get them back out on the field against Fulham and try to produce the resilience and desire they produced against West Brom to get a result at Fulham."

"Ultimately, it's stopping goals which is my problem now."

Carlton Cole is looking to get back on the score sheet after being held without a goal against West Brom. He had scored in each of the previous two games against Arsenal and Manchester United.

The forward has seven goals over his past nine matches - five starts - against Fulham, netting one in the 82nd minute of a 3-0 home victory Nov. 30.

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