Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has challenged his squad to show they are not just reliant on the qualities of Wilfried Zaha when they host Newcastle on Friday night.
Zaha continues his period of self-isolation following a positive coronavirus test, which had also ruled him out of content for Monday’s trip to Burnley, which ended in a 1-0 defeat.
Hodgson hopes Ivory Coast forward Zaha will shake off the virus and return a negative test as he looks to make a comeback ahead of the West Brom game on December 5.
The Eagles boss, though, accepts his team cannot just look to rely on the talents of any one player.
“He (Zaha) has still got a few more days left to isolate. That will take him, I think, to Saturday, when he will be tested again,” Hodgson said.
“We will be hoping that the test will be negative because he has been feeling OK, which is often the case when people test positive. He has had the virus, so we have to follow the procedures.
“Wilf is a very important player.
“It is always the case whenever you have a player who has hit the headlines for his club in the way Wilf has done for us and the team plays without that player and do not get a result, then everyone talks about the man who is missing.
“Of course you miss those players – but you miss them playing their best football and you can’t guarantee they would be playing their best football (in any particular match).
“We tend to endow the player who is not playing with incredible quality, but we did miss him of course and always will miss him when he is not playing because he is such a good player.”
Newcastle head to Selhurst Park looking to avoid what could be a third straight Premier League defeat.
“A lot of teams are up and down, which is the nature of the league and the quality of the opposition we face,” Hodgson said.
“We have a lot of respect for Newcastle, for Steve Bruce and the work he is doing there.
“We know if we want to get the result we would like, then we are going to have to be at our best from the very first minute.”
Palace captain Luka Milivojevic had been isolating in Serbia following a positive Covid-19 test while away on international duty.
The midfielder has now been given the all-clear to train again, but is not set to be in contention against Newcastle as he builds up match fitness.
Palace were one of the Premier League clubs to vote against an increase to five substitutions, which Hodgson feels would not have benefitted his squad.
“We don’t have a problem with player workload, we don’t play three games a week, in the Champions League or Europa League,” he said.
“I am not 100 per cent convinced that having extra substitutions protects the players in particular in that way anyway.
“More often than not the players that you would like to protect in your team are the ones who don’t want to leave the field.”
Hodgson feels Palace do have the strength in depth needed to cover the expected short-term absence of Zaha.
“When you lose a player of Wilf’s quality, it is hard to replace him because he has done so much,” the Eagles boss said.
“There was a period (previously) where we had to play without him for a longer spell and it didn’t go well.
“But we don’t envisage that happening again, because he won’t be missing for that long and also because we feel we have front players now who are more than good enough to step in if he was not able to play.”
Hodgson added: “The last couple of games were affected by the fact there was no Luka Milivojevic, there was no Wilfried Zaha, no James McCarthy – and they are three quite important players to lose.
“Certainly when (all) those three come back, we are definitely an awful lot deeper than we have been in the past and hopefully that will see us in good stead.”