Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury, adding to the Premier League basement club's lengthy injury list. The Belgium international picked up the blow during the thrashing by Manchester City last weekend and will be absent for the next six matches, starting with the trip to Manchester United.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also out with a recurrence of a thigh strain, while defender James Tomkins is missing through illness. Wilfried Zaha has returned to light training having not played since the opening day defeat to Huddersfield Town, but is not fit enough to feature.
But the major blow concerns Benteke, who having failed to register a goal this season is braced for a significant period out on the sidelines. Former Chelsea and West Ham United striker Carlton Cole has been linked with a short-term move to Selhurst Park in time for the clash with United, but manager Roy Hodgson says no talks have taken place.
"Benteke is out," said the ex-England boss, according to Football.London. "His injury is less serious than [City's Benjamin] Mendy but he's got medial ligament damage which will keep him out of training for six weeks. Loftus-Cheek has a thigh strain which he's been battling with for some period of time, which will keep him out of the game. Tomkins is sick so he's out and Conor Wickham is not available.
"Unfortunately, at the moment we've been hit by a plague of injuries at a time when we could have done without it. Wilf's injury is similar to Christian's. It's taken him six weeks to get back to training. We're hoping next Monday he will be with us and we can use him. Too early for tomorrow.
"It's not easy to find players to come into the Premier League and make us a better team. If we're going to get better of a football team it will be a big ask for someone who is out of work. I don't know about Carlton Cole. Dougie Freedman is working hard to turn over every stone and find something. Whether he has spoken to Cole I don't know but I doubt it as he would have told me."
Palace became the first side in English professional football history to lose their first six games of the season without scoring a single goal following their 5-0 loss at City last weekend, leaving the club rooted to the foot of the Premier League table. The trip to Old Trafford couldn't come at a worse time for Hodgson's men, with United having plundered 29 goals in their 10 games so far this term.
"There's never a good time to play Man United and there is always a bad time to play them," added Hodgson. "I guess Jose will say it's not ideal to be playing Saturday afternoon after coming back from Russia but they have a strong team and on paper are stronger than we are. But it's not played on paper and hope we can get some good luck.
"We are trying to instil our ideas in the team, I would like to think that time goes on we will get better they will understand more what we want. There is pain ahead. There might be more pain from the likes of Man United and Chelsea but it doesn't faze us, it won't put us off the task we have ahead of us at all. This is something we have to go through and survive before we play teams a little closer to us."