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Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke has a point to prove to club and country

The striker was dropped from Roberto Martinez’s latest Belgium squad.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

At the age of 27, Christian Benteke should be reaching the peak of his career, but he has only scored two Premier League goals this season.

His bad form hasn’t been ignored by his national team manager, as Roberto Martinez has omitted him from the most recent Belgium squad just months ahead of the World Cup.

It would be a bitter pill to swallow if he wasn’t in Russia this summer as he was forced to miss the 2014 tournament through injury.

This is a player that has been transferred for £27 million or more on two occasions in his career and he is now struggling to live up to his undoubted talent.

Crystal Palace looked to be a great fit for him after a miserable spell with Liverpool. The Eagles play a more direct style and have wide players capable of providing the service that the striker needs to thrive.

His first season with the club was a positive one, as he scored 15 goals and contributed two assists. However, his form has declined rapidly and two goals in 25 Premier League matches isn’t good enough for a player with his ability.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The fact that Crystal Palace have been fighting relegation this season has been partly due to the lack of goals from their first-choice striker.

The lack of options up front at Selhurst Park means that Roy Hodgson doesn’t have an opportunity to take the Belgian out of the firing line.

Alexander Sorloth was signed in January, but he looks very raw and isn’t ready to be the leading man for the South London club at this time.

Statistically, Benteke has been causing less of a threat in the final third, but the drop-off isn’t enough to justify a scoring at the decreased rate that he is.

This season, he has averaged 2.35 shots per ninety minutes, which is down from 3.02 last term. Meanwhile, his shot accuracy has decreased from 45% to 43%.

As the problems have persisted, his lack of confidence has contributed to the lack of form he is experiencing.

Although he is no longer scoring goals as regularly as he was, he still has merit to this Palace team.

His aerial dominance has been important this season, as it brings the midfielders into the game. He has won 56.40% of his aerial duels.

In addition to being an effective target man, he has created 1.13 chances per ninety minutes and has five assists in the Premier League. This is up from last season.

The final seven matches of the season will be crucial in shaping the future of Christian Benteke and his Belgium omission has given him motivation to get back to his best.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Sky Sports report the following quotes from the striker:

“It’s the first time I’ve not been selected in the squad since I first joined, so it was difficult. I spoke with the manager, who called me straight away after, and talked to me about it. I think it’s fair, what he said, but it’s between him and me.

“Of course, it gives me more motivation. Only more goals will help me to get back to where I want to be.”

These comments show maturity from Benteke as he hasn’t taken the decision personally and sees the reasons why Martinez made the decision that he did.

The focus is now on him to react in the right way and score goals for Crystal Palace to help them stave off the threat of relegation. Only that will help him fulfil his World Cup dream.

He faces his former club, Liverpool, this weekend and getting on the scoresheet will be the perfect way to prove he is ready to fight.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace will be kicking themselves over Mandela Egbo

The England youth international left Crystal Palace in 2015.

Mathew Coull

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Young English winger Keanan Bennetts made the news this week, by completing a move to German side Borussia Monchengladbach. The 19-year-old turned his back on Tottenham Hotspur in order to make the move to Germany, a move that is becoming more and more regular.

Jadon Sancho, Ryan Kent and Reece Oxford all played in the Bundesliga this season, whilst Ademola Lookman was on fire for RB Leipzig by the end of the campaign.

But one young man who did the same thing will surely be leaving a sour taste in the mouth at Crystal Palace.

The player in question is 20-year-old defender Mandela Egbo. He is now one of Bennetts’ new team-mates at Gladbach and will no doubt be helping his fellow Londoner settle in the North Rhine-Westphalia.

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Hackney-born Egbo started his career at Crystal Palace. He swiftly rose through the ranks at the club and looked like a genuine talent for his country as well. Egbo was a member of the England squad that won the European Under-17 Championships back in 2014.

But in 2015 he decided he wanted to leave Crystal Palace. The defender joined Gladbach, where he played with their B team and saw a clearer pathway toward first-team football.

Egbo has since gone on to make his Bundesliga debut and Palace fans will realise they are now missing out on a real talent.

At 20-years-old he now appears to have matured into a very talented footballer. He simply felt that rather than getting a chance at Palace, the Eagles would always buy a new defender instead of giving him a shot.

(Photo by Raquel Costa/Getty Images)

Undoubtedly, it looks as though this has been a good career move for Egbo. Palace, on the other hand, will be disappointed they never managed to keep him in London.

Roy Hodgson would have been delighted to have a player of Egbo’s natural quality available to him in the Palace squad for next season.

Whilst fans at Selhurst Park will be gutted Egbo is not an Eagle anymore, they will no doubt wish him all the best in the Bundesliga. And who knows? Maybe, one day, Egbo will make a return to his boyhood club.

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Wilfried Zaha would be an underwhelming signing for Liverpool

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Photo: Getty Images.

Liverpool have become the latest top six club to be linked with Crystal Palace ace Wilfried Zaha as the Liverpool Echo included the Reds as one of many sides believed to be chasing the Ivory Coast winger.

However, if the club do make a move for the 25-year-old, it would show a lack of ambition after what many have perceived to be a season of progress as Liverpool have reached the Champions League final whilst retaining their top four spot.

On paper, a wideman with strength and pace who scores goals would be ready-made for Jurgen Klopp’s attacking set-up and could provide a much needed rotation option alongside the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane up-front.

Despite that, it would be a huge gamble to invest in Zaha. One reason for that is that he has showed his best form at Selhurst Park in the second half of 2017/18 as Roy Hodgson gave the winger a free role in attack, allowing him freedom to switch between flanks and centrally in a number ten role.

(during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England.

At Anfield, Zaha would not possess such an option, and if he tried to maintain many of the key traits of his game of cutting inside and drifting around near the opposition box, he would be standing on the toes of established regulars like Salah and Firmino.

Then there is the concern over Zaha’s ability to adapt. His previous spell at Manchester United hinted at the fact that he has struggled with the associated pressure of being at a big club like Liverpool or their north-western rivals, which will be a concern for any club paying the astronomical transfer fee that Crystal Palace would demand for his services.

The winger has undoubted potential, but as Champions League finalists and with money to spend, Liverpool can afford to go after established stars rather than taking expensive gambles on unproven men who have a history of inconsistency.

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West Ham can’t afford to lose Michail Antonio to Crystal Palace

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Photo: Getty Images.

Uncertainty surrounds West Ham United as a summer rollercoaster looks inevitable with big changes on and off the field. That is starting with a change in the dug-out, where The Times say that former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is favourite to replace David Moyes. The club could pay a heavy price though, with Michail Antonio potentially at risk.

The Guardian say that London rivals Crystal Palace are looking to do their transfer business early and could pounce on the chaos at the London Stadium to poach the winger away from the Hammers.

The former Sheffield Wednesday man missed much of the 2017/18 season with on and off injuries from bruised ribs to calf strains and a pulled hamstring, which may suggest that now could be the right time to cash in on the explosive 28-year-old who relies on physicality and dynamic pace.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images,)

Yet despite that, West Ham cannot afford to be tempted into selling. Despite being sidelined by injury at various points throughout the season, when fit Antonio was always one of the first names on the team sheet under both Slaven Bilic and David Moyes.

Antonio’s tenacity and determination shows why a new manager, whether it is Pellegrini or not, should look to build their team around the winger. Able to play in a variety of roles and a real fan favourite, the unpopular Irons board would be taking a huge gamble by allowing Antonio to depart.

It is no surprise that Palace are interested, and had it not been for injury some much more high profile clubs could have come calling, but West Ham must retain the services of Michail Antonio if they are to pursue hopes of pushing for Europe.

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