Rock-bottom Palace hit hard by Benteke blow

LONDON • Crystal Palace's hopes of recovering from their abysmal start to the Premier League season have been dealt a blow with news that their record signing, Christian Benteke, is expected to miss around six weeks with the knee injury he suffered in the loss at Manchester City on Saturday.

The Belgium forward limped out of the 5-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium after 72 minutes, with manager Roy Hodgson confirming afterwards that he will miss the trip to Old Trafford this weekend.

Benteke was then sent to see a specialist, who confirmed that the player, purchased last year from Liverpool for an initial £26 million (S$47 million), has suffered minor ligament damage and will be out for more than a month.

That would further rule the 26-year-old out of the forthcoming Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham, as well as the League Cup fourth-round trip to Bristol City and Belgium's World Cup qualifiers against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cyprus next month.

Palace, who have yet to register a goal or a point from six league games, now face a major issue up front, with reserve striker Connor Wickham still weeks away from returning from his own knee injury.

Fraizer Campbell was allowed to leave Selhurst Park to join Hull in the summer after his contract expired, while an attempt to sign Everton's Oumar Niasse fell through on deadline day after Palace failed to agree personal terms with the Senegal international.

Hodgson could now turn to Mali winger Bakary Sako, who scored the winning goal in the League Cup tie against Huddersfield last month, but has not found the net in the league since August 2015.

Wilfried Zaha could be another option, although the Ivory Coast forward has also yet to recover from the knee ligament injury he suffered during Palace's season opener against Huddersfield.

Hodgson admitted before the City game that Zaha has earmarked the Chelsea fixture on Oct 14 as his likely return date.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Rock-bottom Palace hit hard by Benteke blow'. Print Edition | Subscribe