Pardew anticipates battle of the Belgians

Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku will provide a "great sub-plot" when Crystal Palace take on Everton, according to Eagles manager Alan Pardew.

The Belgian strikers have been in good form of late, with Benteke scoring twice in his last four appearances for Palace, while Lukaku has netted four in his last five for Everton.

Connor Wickham and Fraizer Campbell are also battling for a place in the Palace strike force, and Pardew paid tribute to Benteke's influence on his squad.

He said: "Christian and Lukaku are both top players. Lukaku has Christian's shirt for Belgium at the moment and Christian wants that shirt - a great sub-plot.

"Christian has brought assurance for the team. We know that between him, Connor and Fraizer there's not much to choose from."

Pardew, who confirmed that Wilfried Zaha will be available to face Everton, said the competition for places at Palace was stronger than last season.

"We look more confident in what we're doing," he said. "We understand the system in midfield, our full-backs understand their offensive play.

"Last year I think it would have been easy for the fans to name our team and I think that's harder this year. That's a good thing.

"There'll be a split in the fans regarding our best starting XI this year and that shows the strength we have now."

Palace striker Jonathan Benteke will miss the trip to Goodison Park with a knee injury that will keep him out of action for between three and four months, according to Pardew.

He said: "It's his meniscus on his knee, he did it in training. His knee locked in a finishing drill and it will need an operation.

"It's a shame for Jonathan and for us. His meniscus on his knee is the problem here."

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