London: Crystal Palace’s hopes of avoiding Premier League relegation this season rely on playmaker Wilfried Zaha maintaining his fitness during the run-in, winger Andros Townsend has said.
Palace have lost all nine league games that Zaha has missed this season and the 25-year-old’s return to action from a knee injury in the defeat at Chelsea earlier this month was a welcome boost for Roy Hodgson’s team.
The Ivory Coast international was influential in Palace’s 2-0 victory at Huddersfield Town, which helped the visitors end a four-game losing streak in the league and climb to 16th in the table.
“Wilf coming back gives us a massive boost,” Townsend told British media. “He’s an incredible player for us. We’ve all seen the stats about what happens when he’s not in the team. We need to keep him fit if we’re going to stay up.” Zaha was substituted off in the closing stages at John Smith’s Stadium after picking up a knock following numerous hard tackles by the hosts but Townsend believes that his team mate is experienced enough to handle the constant pressure.
“When you’re as good as Wilf and when you’re the team’s talisman you have to take that punishment,” Townsend added.
“The likes of Eden Hazard and Harry Kane take the same tackles. Wilf is robust enough to ride those challenges.
“The most impressive thing about him is that he didn’t let it affect him, he didn’t lose his head. He kept getting on the ball and he kept taking people on.” Palace are two points above 18th-placed Southampton having played one game more and host third-placed Liverpool in the league on March 31.