Scott Parker is hopeful Aleksandar Mitrovic can rediscover his goalscoring touch at Fulham after being able to “regroup” during an international break where he hit five goals for Serbia.
The 26-year-old has scored just twice in the Premier League this season, both goals coming in a 4-3 defeat at Leeds in September.
Since then he has dropped out of favour as Parker looks to find a formula to keep Fulham in the top flight.
But he enjoyed a fine run with Serbia as he scored five goals across three World Cup qualifiers, including a brace against the Republic of Ireland, before returning to his club.
Fulham 18th in the table and are two points from safety as they prepare to travel to Aston Villa on Sunday.
It remains to be seen if Mitrovic will earn his first start since February 3 – but Parker feels a change of scenery may have been a good thing for his striker.
“I can understand the frustration,” he said of Mitrovic’s lack of goals for Fulham.
“But no one is more frustrated than Mitro. This is professional sport and sometimes there are little blips.
“I look at the journey he has been on from last year; he wasn’t fit to play in the play-off final at Wembley.
“He had a short turnaround in pre-season and it has been a bit bumpy, he has had Covid, had a big penalty miss for Serbia and these are the journeys players go on.
“Sometimes players just need air, they need oxygen to get in and just regroup a bit, take the pressure off them and if they have got the talent and the ethic about them they come back stronger and they come back to that point and hopefully that is where Mitro is.”
Mitrovic also scored twice against Azerbaijan and pulled one back for Serbia as they went on to draw 2-2 with Portugal.
Parker now wants those goals to act as a confidence boost for the former Newcastle forward as the Cottagers enter the business end of the season.
“Five goals in three games, I’m pleased for Mitro,” he added.
“We all saw it in terms of his emotion and that feeling of scoring as a centre-forward.
“It is fair to say that at times this year Mitro has been up and down. What you saw in midweek was Mitro in a nutshell.
“That is the work he has done in the last three or four weeks and the goals are the by-product of that.
“It is a little bit of confidence which is what he needs, the talent has always been there, it is what affects forwards at some moments and certainly I’d like to think that the confidence is there.”