Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson will be praying Wilfried Zaha’s pointless 6,400 mile return trip to the Ivory Coast has not retarded his recovery from a hamstring strain.
The Eagles want their totemic attacker back for tomorrow’s vital home game against Huddersfield Town and Wednesday’s visit to Spurs for the inaugural Premier League match at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Zaha missed Crystal Palace’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Watford before the international break because of the injury, but was still called up by his country.
Palace will be far from happy that Ivory Coast officials insisted on Zaha travelling to have his injury assessed. The club were in constant contact with the 26-year-old Eagles star and medical staff in west Africa while he was away.
He sat in the stands for the Elephants’ Africa Cup of Nations clash with Rwanda and also missed Tuesday’s friendly with Liberia – the apparent highlight of an otherwise fruitless trip being the chance to pose for pictures with Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba.
Hodgson is also waiting to see whether right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is available for the visit of the Terriers at the weekend. He withdrew from U21 duty for England, with an unspecified injury, ahead of their game against Germany on Tuesday night.
Hodgson is eager for Zaha to return quickly to help the Eagles in their fight against relegation, but said: “You never know with hamstring injuries. You have to be very, very careful, especially with players as explosive as Wilf. He felt it after the Brighton game and didn’t train during the week [leading up to the Watford game].
“It was pretty obvious that it would have been an enormous risk to play him in the game – a risk of much more serious injury.”
Saturday’s match could see a first competitive return to South London for Karlan Grant since his January move from Charlton.
The 21-year-old striker, born in Greenwich, has already played in the capital for Huddersfield since he made his switch, however, having turned out for his new club in defeats at Chelsea and West Ham.
Grant scored twice against the Hammers and is already the Terriers’ joint-top scorer.