Roy Hodgson has played down Crystal Palace’s hopes of finishing in the top half of the Premier League this season amidst an injury crisis at the club.
The Eagles could be without up to 10 first-teamers when they visit Leeds on Monday after Wilfried Zaha was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
It has dented Palace’s hopes of registering a third consecutive win after fine recent victories over Wolves and Newcastle.
Back-to-back triumphs have firmly eased their relegation fears with the Selhurst Park club boasting a healthy cushion over the bottom three while they are now within touching distance of the top half.
Hodgson said: “It has been a strange year. We had such a good start with back-to-back wins and we have had spells where we have had several defeats in a row so it has been topsy-turvy.
“We have fortunately never been really close to the relegation zone during the season so far but there have been other times where we felt ourselves going in the wrong direction.
“It has been nice with the last two results to turn the ship around if you like, but lots of games still to play.
“And if we want to get into the top half of the table – firstly we will have to recover a good few of these injured players. It would be a tough ask for such a small squad to get us up there.”
Already without the likes of James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho, James McArthur and Jeffrey Schlupp for the midweek win at Newcastle, Palace only named seven players on the bench.
Hodgson admitted it is likely to be a similar story on Monday night, adding: “We won’t have a full bench of senior players from our 25.
“If we want to fill up the bench, we will have to get players from the under-23s squad tested to get up to 20.
“But quite frankly whether I have 18 or 20 on the bench, that isn’t the crucial factor. You can only use three whether it is three from seven or three from nine.
“It is no good putting players on the bench just to be there and to take them all the way up to Leeds unless we have some serious thought to use them in the game.”
Ray Lewington, Hodgson’s assistant, has been absent for Palace’s last three games after he tested positive for coronavirus last month.
While the 64-year-old has recovered, he continues to isolate with his wife yet to fully get over the virus.
“I am not imagining he will be back in time for the Leeds game but there is a possibility he will be back for the Burnley game and he will be very welcome when he does get back here,” Hodgson revealed.
“We are comfortable about the situation and more than understand and accept when you get hit by this terrible virus, football is definitely in second place and recovering from the virus and looking after your family is very much in first place.”