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October 20 2021 1.23am

Who can replace injured Benteke?

October 3 2017

Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke

The knee injury suffered by Christian Benteke couldn’t have come at a more difficult time for Crystal Palace, writes Matt Church.

The 26-year-old left the Etihad pitch in obvious discomfort during the 5-0 defeat against Manchester City, then further tests revealed he would be out of action for at least six weeks.

It goes without saying that it was a blow to the plans of manager Roy Hodgson, who is tasked with turning the Eagles' fortunes around and facing the prospect of doing so without the main man in attack.

Following such a tough and frustrating start to the 2017/18 Premier League campaign, those carefully following the news on sports betting will have observed that tipsters don't fancy any change in fortunes for Crystal Palace any time soon.

Likewise, Eagles fans are less than impressed by a situation they feel could have been avoided, had the club made more of an effort to strengthen their attack during the summer.

Faced with a long wait until the January transfer window to bolster their striker options, only two options remain; scour the market for free agents, or put faith in those already at the club.

Out-of-contract options

There are various striker options available to Crystal Palace, should they choose to look towards free agents. Carlton Cole has been strongly linked as a possibility, although the former Chelsea and West Ham striker has hardly set the world on fire during his recent Indonesian adventure.

Failing to score or impress at Persib Bandung, the 33-year-old departed hastily with critical words ringing in his ears from their manager.

A return to Selhurst Park for Marouane Chamakh has been suggested, amongst a list of other speculatively touted options such as former England international Rickie Lambert, talented but injury-plagued Guiseppe Rossi, or even 38-year-old veteran Claudio Pizarro as a stop-gap measure.

All such names might have been interesting a few years ago, but that’s what they all have in common; their best footballing days are well behind them.

Existing options

Connor Wickham would have been the most obvious Benteke replacement, but he too is struggling with injury problems. Further down the pecking order, Freddie Ladapo was regarded as "an unknown quantity" by Hodgson as the team prepared to take on Manchester United.

The 24-year-old hadn’t made his first team debut at that point and didn’t hit the net often in his previous loan spells with Oldham or Shrewsbury.

Players lacking in top-flight experience does pose a problem, but a peek amongst the ranks of the academy would suggest U23 player Victor Fundi might get a chance to shine.

Still raw and untested at the highest level, as a stopgap option at the very least, the youngster would certainly relish the opportunity.

Hodgson doesn’t seem keen on going with a ‘false nine’ as a tactical choice, but he has suggested midfielder Bakary Sako could act as a temporary striker solution, at least until Benteke regains fitness.

More familiar playing as a winger or attacking midfielder, the 29-year-old Mali international has plenty of experience and enough versatility in his play to offer a helping hand to his boss.

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