Eagles chief admits it will be a major battle to name a “valid” team for derby against Arsenal

BY SAM SMITH

Roy Hodgson has admitted that it will be very difficult for him to field a “valid” Crystal Palace team against Arsenal next weekend.

Luka Milivojevic, Max Meyer and Jairo Riedewald were added to an ever-increasing list of absentees during the 1-0 FA Cup defeat against Derby County on Sunday afternoon.

Milivojevic was sent off and will miss the next three games while the latter two hobbled off with injuries. Wilfried Zaha missed the tie through injury and Hodgson says he has 11 players absent.

The 72-year-old said: “How many injury problems from bona fide first-team players do you need before someone says, ‘in actual fact it’s very difficult for you to field a team at any point in time’?

“Counting those two [Meyer and Riedewald] now, that makes 11. How many players are we going to need in our squad to put out what we would think is an equally valid 11 in games like this?

“I’ve never known a situation where so many players are injured, so many are perhaps long-term injuries. We lost [Mamadou] Sakho in the Norwich game and on Sunday we lost Meyer and Riedewald who were in their turn, really, covering for other places.”

Hodgson hopes Ivory Coast international Zaha will return for the visit of the Gunners.

“The fact is he was pressed into service against Norwich, probably defiant of the advice of the sport science and medical people.

“If Wilf had been a different person to the person he is, he wouldn’t have played against Norwich. But he did and he got through the game which was fantastic.

“I wasn’t prepared to ask him to push himself through another game against medical advice for a cup match, which, if you’re going to lose a game in our situation, Crystal Palace, is the game you prefer to lose to a league game because our aim is not to win the FA Cup, our aim is to stay in the Premier League.

“We’ve said since the summer transfer window we are looking to sign at least one, possibly two strikers and two full-backs. Nothing changes. I said it a year ago, I said it in the summer and I say it again.”

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