Zaha can lift Crystal Palace, says (prays) Roy Hodgson

Date published: Friday 13th October 2017 3:50

Crystal Palace can welcome back Wilfried Zaha for Saturday’s visit of Chelsea as they pursue their first points of the Premier League season.

The influential forward’s absence, since a knee injury suffered in the 3-0 home defeat by Huddersfield in their first fixture of 2017/18, has contributed to the fact Palace have lost all seven league games without scoring.

Manager Frank de Boer was sacked and succeeded by Roy Hodgson after the fourth defeat of that run, and the club’s only recognised striker, Christian Benteke, has also since suffered a knee injury.

With the promising, on-loan Ruben Loftus-Cheek ineligible against his parent club, Zaha’s return to fitness becomes particularly significant, and Hodgson said: “He can make a difference.

“There’s no reason not to consider him. He’s a good player who, in the past, has made some very important moves and done some very important things for Crystal Palace. The fans will be pleased to see him back because they associate him with some better moments.

“He’s been out for six weeks and has done ever so well to be back in this time, so to expect him to be in the form he was before is a tough ask. But who knows? The international break has been very good for us in that respect.”

Palace remain in the hunt for a free agent striker who could come in to lift the team.

“The search for the rare pearl: a centre-forward out of work and without a club who is good enough to come in and play for Crystal Palace. It’s not impossible, but not something that occupies my working moments,” Hodgson said.

“I’m thinking about training and working with what we’ve got. But (sporting director) Dougie Freedman and the chairman (Steve Parish) are looking and coming up with ideas.”

Hodgson’s first-choice goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey faces a late fitness test on Saturday, having suffered a calf injury on international duty with Wales. Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata and N’Golo Kante have already been ruled out, but manager Hodgson is refusing to take confidence from their absence.

“They’re excellent players, aren’t they?” Hodgson said. “I’m pretty sure that Antonio (Conte, Chelsea’s manager) will be disappointed to lose those two, but they’ve got fantastic players to come in.

“I never worry too much about those things. I don’t get joy from other teams losing players. It reminds me it will happen to me some day. It’ll be a very good XI we face on the field: it won’t make our task any easier.

“Conte was Italy manager when we (England) played them in a friendly in Turin. And he was playing for Juventus (while I managed in Italy). I don’t know him from those playing days, but I do from his time with the national team. I have every respect for the job he did with Italy, and now with Chelsea.”

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