• Ivory Coast international could feature in London derby after stepping up his recovery from injury.
  • Zaha has not played since sustaining a knee problem on the first day of the season.
  • In his absence, Palace have lost all seven of their opening Premier League games without scoring.

Troubled Crystal Palace have been handed a major fitness boost after Wilfried Zaha returned to full first-team training nine days before Roy Hodgson's side host defending champions Chelsea in the Premier League.

The absence of Zaha has been a key factor behind Palace's utterly abysmal start to the new campaign, with the influential winger having sustained a knee injury during an embarrassing 3-0 home defeat by newly-promoted Huddersfield Town on opening day.

Without him, the rock-bottom Eagles, who sacked previous manager Frank de Boer after just 77 days last month, went onto become the first team in English Football League history to lose their opening six games without scoring a single goal.

That brutal run was extended before the international break with another heavy 4-0 defeat at Manchester United.

Zaha was originally ruled out for approximately one month and has since missed losses against Liverpool, Swansea City, Burnley, Southampton, Manchester City and United in addition to the Carabao Cup wins over Ipswich Town and Huddersfield.

However, the Ivory Coast international has kept supporters well abreast of his rehabilitation process via social media and appears to be on track to return against London rivals Chelsea at Selhurst Park on 14 October provided he does not experience any further setbacks between now and then.

Taking to Twitter on Thursday (5 October), Zaha posted a 58-second video of him seemingly taking full part in training alongside the caption: "First day back training with the boys, feeling good".

With Zaha already sidelined, Palace's hopes of escaping from their current rut were dealt a further sizable blow in September when key striker Christian Benteke sustained knee ligament damage during a 5-0 drubbing at City. He is slated to miss approximately six weeks.

Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also dealing with the recurrence of a thigh strain but would not have been eligible to face his parent club anyway. Defenders Scott Dann and James Tomkins could both return, although Connor Wickham is not expected to make his comeback from an anterior cruciate ligament injury until January. The 24-year-old has not played for Palace since November 2016.

The combined absences of Benteke and Wickham coupled with a failure to complete deals for the likes of Cenk Tosun and Oumar Niasse before the summer transfer deadline has left only little-known Freddie Ladapo as the main back-up to makeshift forward Bakary Sako and led to suggestions that Palace could look to ease their striker crisis with the signing of a free agent.

However, rumoured target Rickie Lambert recently announced his retirement from professional football and Italian veteran Alberto Gilardino opted to join Serie B team Spezia. Carlton Cole, released by Indonesian club Persib Bandung in June, says he is yet to hear from Palace but believes he still has what it takes to succeed in the English top-flight.

Wilfried Zaha
Wilfried Zaha has not played for Crystal Palace since the opening day of the season