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January 17 2021 3.10pm

Has the curse of meaningless internationals struck at Palace?

November 25 2020

Selhurst Park

Selhurst Park

Everyone connected to Crystal Palace would have been in a jubilant mood heading into the international break after playing Leeds United off the park in a 4-1 victory at Selhurst Park, writes Ben Leyland.

Marcelo Bielsaís men posed a real challenge for Palace but the Eagles soared to victory and sent the West Yorkshire side a timely reminder about the modern status quo in English football.

Part of the excitement that came from within the club as the players headed out to do battle for their respective countries was down to the performance of Eberechi Eze.

The 22-year-old put in a man-of-the-match display after sending a curling free-kick into the top corner as well as assisting Scott Dann from a corner. It was indeed a show-stopping performance that would have gone a long way in convincing Palace fans that he is ready to make the step up from the Championship.

Of course, there were questions asked over the late summer as to whether Eze could cut it in the top-flight after arriving from QPR for a fee in the region of £20m. Naturally, QPR fans were in no doubt that he could and their fear of losing him seems to be more than justified.

Currently, the Rs languish down the table with their odds on the Championship promotion race looking fairly depressing having been priced at 30/1 to go up.

Many thought that Mark Warburton's men would have been a shoo-in for promotion to the Premier League had Eze stayed, such was the young playmakerís prolificacy in the Championship. Well, it seems that more and more Palace fans will now be agreeing with the QPR supportersí opinion of Eze after he inspired the Eagles to victory over Leeds.

Whether the Palace supporters will be able to see a continuation of that impressive form after the international breakis now up in the air, after Eze was withdrawn from the England under-21 set-up and sent back to Beckenham for further fitness tests.

The official Crystal Palace site is putting it down to muscle tightness and insists it is only a precaution but seeing as three other Young Lions were withdrawn from the same training camp, you canít help but wonder why first-team Premier League players are made to turn out for, what is in effect, an England development side.

Eze may come through this unscathed for the large part, but with the winter months approaching and the schedule about to be ramped up even further, niggles like this will prove a lot harder to shake.

Of course, one doesnít want to tempt fate but you can imagine a scenario where a small injury picked up on meaningless international duty keeps recurring throughout the rest of the season.

Incredibly, there have been three international breaks squeezed into this start of the 2020/2021 campaign, which is widely acknowledged to be the most congested season on record.

Immediate questions need to be asked about the future of international friendlies, especially if Premier League superstars are going to be asked to turn out for youth teams.

No one is arguing that country shouldn't always come before club but in these unheard-of times, a little bit of common sense wouldn't go amiss.

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