01 Mar Palace’s injury crisis starting to ease – but only a little
Crystal Palace’s injury crisis will be eased by the returns of Martin Kelly and Jeffrey Schlupp in time for Monday’s visit of Manchester United.
Their availability to strengthen Roy Hodgson’s options in defence, where they are most stretched, is also expected to be followed by confirmation of the signing of Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri.
Palace had 12 senior players injured for their 1-0 defeat by Tottenham and against United must also prepare for the absence of the on-loan Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who has consistently featured but is ineligible against his parent club.
Their options were such that little-known right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka was given his senior debut against Spurs, with the absentees including second-choice goalkeeper Julian Speroni, contributing to the imminent arrival of free agent Cavalieri.
“I’m counting on (Kelly and Schlupp) being fit,” said Hodgson. “They were close to returning, had done one session with us before the Spurs game but they’ve trained all week, as best we can train.
“But they’re the only two who are back in contention. All the other ones who were injured before are still injured.
“Wilfried (Zaha) is recovering ahead of schedule, but he’s still mainly doing straight running. He’s not doing the more complicated twisting, turning and contact with other players yet.”
Of the 35-year-old Cavalieri, who Hodgson also managed at Liverpool, he said: “Everything’s been agreed. It’s a question of the paperwork now. I can’t announce anything as yet, but it’s certainly moving in the right direction and I hope we’ll be able to make an announcement soon.”
Owing largely to injuries suffered by Zaha, Mamadou Sakho, Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the threat of relegation is perhaps the greatest it has been since Hodgson began to inspire a significant improvement shortly after succeeding the sacked Frank de Boer.
In addition to United, Palace also face fixtures against Chelsea, Huddersfield and Liverpool before the end of the month, but the manager has defended his chairman Steve Parish for discussing the fact he is preparing for a return to the Championship.
“I read the whole interview Steve gave, and what he said was what anyone would say if he’s serious about his club and business,” he said. “You can’t plan on the basis you will definitely be in one league. That’s what he’s done – taken into account contingency plans.
“We’re all 100 per cent focused on staying in the league. It’s one line in a big speech he was giving to other businessmen, not sports people, about the need to plan and make contingencies.”