There’s a bit of good news when it comes to Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha: The Ivorian attacker won’t miss the rest of the Premier League season with a knee injury suffered and played through in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle United at Selhurst Park.
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Zaha, 25, could be out for a month with the injury, which the Palace web site says is similar to one that sidelined him for eight games earlier this season.
That may have been the biggest reason for Palace’s miserable early season, so some fans are understandably alarmed with any absence for their best player.
Here’s Roy Hodgson, from CPFC.co.uk:
“We don’t know how long he is out for, that is the bottom line and it’s amazing he was able to play so long in the game with the injury. The good news for us is that he is a very quick healer, he and the medical staff will work very hard to get him back on the field as soon as possible and we know he will definitely not play against Everton, that’s for sure, and it might even take a week or two more than that.
Palace has 27 points, three points clear of the drop zone. The Eagles face Everton, Spurs, Manchester United, and Chelsea over the next month, so points were always going to be at a premium.
So we supposed the injury coming in February, when Palace has so few matches remaining in the month, is the second bit of good news.
Erdal Rakip‘s whirlwind season is heading to London.
The Swedish international sealed a permanent deal to Benfica this month, but is set for a loan at Crystal Palace.
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Rakip, 21, has made 120 appearances with 12 goals for Malmo in betrayal of his tender age, including a career-high nine goals in 2017 as the Swedish champs sealed a fourth title in five years.
Helping seal the deal was Hodgson’s status as Malmo legend, leading the club to five league titles and two Swedish cups. From CPFC.co.uk:
“It will be an honour playing for Roy. He is a legend in Malmö and everyone know who he is,” Erdal added. “Crystal Palace is a fantastic club with a lot of history that plays entertaining football, and was the best option for my development and my career at this stage.
Malmo has lost two big players in the past six months in Rakip and Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotun.
Given Palace’s injuries, players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye were going to be taxed a lot by the run-in to safety. Rakip will help with that.
Crystal Palace has a pall cast over its 2-1 win over Southampton on Tuesday, as the club has been dealt a serious blow with season-ending injuries to two players.
Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon, longtime servants of the club, have both suffered cruciate ligament injuries and manager Roy Hodgson says either could miss the start of next season, too.
[ RECAP: Saints 1-2 Palace ]
Puncheon 31, lost his starting spot after 10 matches but has 161 caps for the Eagles, while Dann, 30, has captained the club 10 times this season.
Here’s Hodgson on whether Palace will be active in the transfer market, knowing full well the Eagles saved their season with January additions of Mamadou Sakho and Luka Milivojevic last season (not simply hiring Sam Allardyce, believe it or not). From the BBC:
“It’s far too soon to say, we didn’t know until today that Scott had injured a cruciate ligament but the Chairman and Directors are keen to improve our squad to ensure we have what we need. Hopefully our performances have shown that if we get that backing it’ll make us even stronger in this run in.”
- Palace won fixture 3-0 last season
- Lone win in last 14 vs. Gunners
- Arsenal leads all-time 26W-11D-4L
Arsenal needs a win to keep up with its Top Four rivals when it visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Thursday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
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Palace has rebounded dramatically under manager Roy Hodgson, from zero wins to 18 points and a place outside the relegation zone.
The test is amongst the, if not the, biggest challenges for Hodgson since it opened an eight-match unbeaten run in league play with a 2-2 home draw with Everton. The Eagles boast an impressive 3-0 win at Leicester, but topping Arsenal for a second successive season at Selhurst would be significant.
What they’re saying
Palace boss Hodgson on Arsenal: “I watched their game last Friday night and I thought they were extremely good and their game against Manchester United which they lost but I thought they played exceptionally well, their attacking play was stupendous. We know that’s what we’ve got coming, that’s what we’ve got to try to find a way of trying to deal with and the only advantage we have is the fact that it is at home where our fans do give us enormous support and also they’re sensible fans they realise that we have got a big job on our hands, they will be expecting us to give our all against Arsenal.”
Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere on playing with Mesut Ozil: I’ve said before that’s where I want to play. I like playing through the middle, whether it’s deeper or it’s in the number 10. With a player like Mesut, we’ve been playing next to each other, it makes it easy. If you make a run, he’ll find a ball for you and with Granit sitting in behind it’s working quite well. We’re looking to build on that, we can improve definitely, that’s what we’re trying to do.
There’s real potential for some festive fireworks here, and we won’t be surprised to see both Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez get on the scoreboard. But it can also be a day for Wilfried Zaha and ex-North London Derby thorn Andros Townsend against Arsenal’s back line. Laurent Koscielny‘s had a bit of a rough patch in particular, and we bet the Eagles find the back of the goal in a 2-1 or 3-1 loss.
Crystal Palace’s impressive run from zero points to an actual relegation scrap would be within goal differential of safety were it not for Christian Benteke.
The ice-cold Belgian striker took a stoppage time penalty out of the hands of Luka Milivojevic, who had converted one earlier in the match, and promptly saw his attempt saved by Asmir Begovic.
[ RECAP: Palace 2-2 Bournemouth ]
That left the match at a 2-2 standstill, and Palace manager Roy Hodgson was less than impressed with the way it was handled by his players.
“It was a unilateral decision and no one on our team was able to wrestle the ball away from him,” Hodgson said. “We the management decide who the penalty takers are. We don’t really expect players during the course of the game to change those decisions
“Had it been a training session we could’ve done something about it. … We tried to shout out instructions, they obviously didn’t get as far as the penalty spot.”
Benteke has yet to score in 10 matches this season, something that will not aid the reaction to his decision. But striker starved Palace may not have an alternative, at least for a few more weeks.