Crystal Palace expect Benteke to return ahead of schedule

Christian Benteke may hand the revived Crystal Palace another boost by returning early from a knee injury.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson believes Christian Benteke is set to return from a knee injury "ahead of schedule" but admits he is uncertain how that schedule looks exactly.

The Belgian striker sustained the injury in Palace's 5-0 mauling at Manchester City on September 23 and was initially ruled out for at least six weeks.

But with Palace on a high from beating champions Chelsea last weekend, scoring their first goals and collecting their first points of the season, Benteke's swift return could provide another boost.

Hodgson was wary of putting a date on his striker's return, but also has hope that Connor Wickham could also boost his forward options.

"I wouldn't want to do that, that would be something really for the medical department," Hodgson said.

"All I can say is they both [Benteke and Wickham] seem to be progressing quite well and I've spoken to Christian a couple of times and he's feeling very confident and thinking he's ahead of schedule but what the schedule is who can really say?"

Palace's inspiration against Chelsea came through Wilfried Zaha, who scored the winner and turned in an electric performance up front in his first game since the opening day.

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Hodgson does not wish to rely on the Ivory Coast winger, however, and challenged his whole team to follow Zaha's example.

He added: "He's a top-class player, he has been a talisman for Crystal Palace in the past.

"But I believe, like all coaches, that football is a team game and much as you need your top-class players, it's unfair to suggest that if we are going to get ourselves out of trouble it's got to be down to one man. We have to get the best out of him and support him as best we can.

"I was delighted for him, it was an exceptionally good performance especially given the circumstances of having been out for six weeks.

"I'm rather hoping we'll get another 30 performances like that from him going forward."

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