Roy Hodgson adamant Crystal Palace are still in an aerial fight for relegation

Roy Hodgson adamant Crystal Palace are still in an aerial fight for relegation

Roy Hodgson adamant Crystal Palace are still in an aerial fight for relegation

Roy Hodgson admitted Crystal Palace remain in a relegation duel despite their improvement in form, but suggested the dog is now slightly smaller after four games without defeat.

Palace won their first three games under Hodgson after being reappointed in March following a 12-game winless run under previous manager Patrick Vieira, followed by a goalless draw at home to Everton on Saturday.

This helped lift them nine points clear of the bottom three and close to safety despite the loss of striker Wilfried Zaha to injury.

Palace will still be without the 30-year-old, who missed the last three games after being forced off with a groin strain during the win against Leicester when they face Wolves at Molineux on Tuesday.

Hodgson had hoped Zaha would return to training this week but confirmed he won’t be available for selection until Saturday’s match against West Ham at the earliest.

The team fared well in his absence, scoring five goals in Leeds’ defeat at Elland Road and two more in a win against bottom side Southampton, seemingly leaving the specter of relegation behind.

Yet Hodgson said his players would have erred in believing the survival job he was called up to do was complete, and he thinks his side are still struggling.

“I think the size of the dog that we’re fighting may have gone down a little bit,” she said. “It’s still a fight, there’s no doubt about that. The dog is nowhere near as small as we would like it to be.

“I’m not going to get into mathematical security. I still think that any 37-point team that sits down and thinks our job is done is making a big mistake.

“I think it would be an incredible lack of ambition, professionalism and desire to have six games ahead of you and decide that 37 points will get us through.

“I came here in the hope of leaving the club in the Premier League. If it happens that we are there with 37 points and goal difference, so be it. It’s something I’m not currently considering. I think in those six games we are able to take more points and let us fight even smaller dogs.

When asked if Zaha will return to the squad when he is fit, he replied: “The diplomatic answer is (the top three of Jordan Ayew, Michael Olise and Odsonne Edouard played well against Everton). The honest answer is that when Wilf is fit, he will play.

“I still think you will always depend on your best players, your winning player. But to become a really good team you need more than one.”

Palace can overtake 11th-placed Chelsea in the Premier League with victory at Molineux, something that seemed unthinkable when Hodgson was appointed on 21 March.

Thus, the gap to the free-spending Blues was 11 points with the team more concerned about being overtaken by teams below them than looking up the table.

However, a win against Wolves would see Palace with a realistic chance of making the top half as the season enters its final weeks.

Hodgson was asked if chasing teams above them could keep players motivated with near-certain survival.

“We will find ways to keep the players focused and motivated, but the best way to do that is to make sure competition for places remains very, very high,” he said.

“This is the best motivation and inspiration we have. We will not do this by targeting a team above us in the table. I didn’t come to the club to try and make sure that after 10 games we finish above Chelsea. I will definitely keep my feet on the ground and you won’t hear me talk about joining Chelsea.

“If we’ve got them back after the gap that was when I first arrived at the club, then you should be talking more about what Chelsea are doing wrong than what we’re doing right, because Chelsea shouldn’t be caught by us with the big advantage they had over us a month ago.

“With the amount of money and riches they have, I don’t think they should be watching fearing we should overtake them, a Crystal Palace team who have actually been battling for relegation for a period of time.”

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