Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Wilfried Zaha will miss Crystal Palace’s Premier League clash with Leeds United and “possibly much longer” after he suffered a hamstring injury against Newcastle United.
The Ivory Coast international, 28, picked up a hamstring problem in their 2-1 win at Newcastle and will miss the trip to Elland Road on Monday night as a result.
With a short turnaround before Palace face Burnley at Selhurst Park on Saturday, it’s unlikely he will be available for selection for that clash, before a trip to Brighton a week today.
“We don’t know how long it’s going to keep him out but he certainly won’t be available for this game and it could even be much longer than that,” Hodgson told reporters.
“You never know with these hamstring injuries, Wilf is incredible in terms of recovery so I wouldn’t want to put a definite timeline on it.
“But it is a muscle strain and all muscle strains take time to heal.”
There’s no doubting the fact that this will be a bitter pill to swallow for Hodgson as his side have built up some newfound momentum heading into the clash with Leeds.
Palace are currently 13th in the Premier League table, thanks in no small part to Zaha, who is the club’s top goalscorer with nine goals and two assists to show for his 19 starts.
His return of nine goals sees him ranked tenth in the top flight, a chart that is topped by none other than the likes of Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane.
In his absence, Hodgson has plenty of options to choose from upfront, many with contrasting abilities, yet nearly all of them have been unable to cement their place in the side. Zaha has established himself as both the first-choice forward and the fulcrum of the attack and his presence will be sorely missed.
Christian Benteke may be the slightly more potent striker with three goals in 15 top-flight appearances, but Michy Batshuayi’s form as of late – one goal in his last three – could give him a more compelling case to start.
Eberechi Eze apart, the closest thing to a natural wide man who is capable of cutting inside from the flank is Jordan Ayew, who has been a constant for Hodgson but one who, given his recent struggles in front of goal (he’s only scored once all season), has done little to merit a place in the starting line-up.
That being said, as we explained earlier, Hodgson may be tempted to throw Jean-Philippe Mateta in at the deep end to test his mettle against Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Either way, we don’t envy Hodgson the decision, that’s for sure. Palace could leapfrog Leeds and go tenth with a win, but will have to do so without the services of their chief talisman, which will be no easy task.
AND in other news, Roy Hodgson must recall James McArthur to face Leeds United…