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Wilfried Zaha has been on the sidelines since the opening week of the season, but he is fit to face Chelsea on Saturday and help his team in scoring the first league goal.
Lack of firepower in the attack
The 24-year-old winger sustained a knee injury during a match against Huddersfield Town back in August, and since then, Crystal Palace are at the bottom of the EPL.
Christian Benteke was on the line to take the leading role at Selhurst Park in Zaha’s absence, but the Belgian struggled in front of goal and then suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for another month.
The Eagles were acting like beheaded chickens in the first seven rounds of the Premier League as they are the only team in history that recorded seven defeats in opening seven games without scoring a single goal.
Without the best two players available, Palace tried to find salvation in Andros Townsend, Bakary Sako, Jason Puncheon, and Yohan Cabaye, but all of them combined for just one goal so far, which is quite embarrassing.
The fact that midfielder James McArthur is the team’s top scorer with two goals says it all.
Frank de Boer experienced a horrific time at Selhurst Park, and he failed to develop a healthy chemistry in the locker room as well as required connection with the players, so the Eagles hierarchy decided to sack him and appoint Roy Hodgson instead.
The former England manager debuted with a 0-1 home loss to Southampton but then responded well in the Carabao Cup with a 1-0 victory over Huddersfield Town. However, Crystal Palace were dismantled in the following two matches against Man City and Man United, conceding nine goals and scoring none in reply.
The truth is that Hodgson joined during a delicate situation at the club and the tough schedule surely didn’t help him, but Roy will have enough time to prove his worth and save the Eagles from relegation.
Crystal Palace’s luck could change with Zaha’s return from injury as he is clearly the best player at Selhurst Park, and his absence hurt the club in so many ways.
Wilfried’s teammates lacked creativity and quality finish in front of goal, while the team spirit was obviously low, so the former Man United winger will certainly lift the mood. Zaha played an integral part in 2016/17, recording seven goals and 11 assists, and the fan favorite will likely feature against Chelsea.
Hodgson is desperate to see him on the pitch, and although the gaffer expressed his desire to field him from the opening minute, he is aware that Zaha cannot be rushed into action yet. It would be surprising to see him in the starting lineup, but Wilfried is expected to come off the bench in the second half.
The Eagles are not strong enough to avoid defeat against the Blues, but with Zaha and ball on his feet, they can hope to see that first goal finally. If he manages to stay healthy for the remainder of the season, Crystal Palace will have a decent chance to stay in the top flight.
Written by Oliver Zivic
Follow Oliver on Twitter @guli86
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