Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is confident Scott Dann and Martin Kelly can fill the club’s defensive void after James Tomkins was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Tomkins has joined Mamadou Sakho on the sidelines, with Hodgson confirming the centre-back has now had surgery for a groin problem suffered during the win at Newcastle.
The Eagles are currently 12th as they head into the closing five matches, with 39 points probably enough to keep them clear of the survival battle.
Title challengers Manchester City head to Selhurst Park on Sunday, with a trip to Arsenal next up.
Hodgson, though, feels Dann and Kelly can rise to the challenge.
“We lost James Tomkins in the game against Newcastle, he has been operated on, so he will miss the remainder of the season which is a major blow, coming on top of Mamadou Sakho’s injury five or six games ago,” the Palace manager said at a press conference broadcast by the club.
“Those two have been such important pillars in the centre of our defence and helped us get where we are.
“It is a big ask now for Martin Kelly and Scott Dann, they are going to have to step into some quite big shoes, but I am confident that they can do that – and they will get their first chance on Sunday.”
Palace have put plenty of distance between themselves and the relegation zone with four wins out of the last seven.
Hodgson, though, does not intend to allow the campaign to drift away.
He said: “It is a dangerous thing to safe (we are safe) I suppose until it is mathematically 100 per cent certain, but you can’t sit on that fence forever.
“Basically the teams below us would have an awful lot to do if they are going to relegate us, so I am confident we have broken the back of our task and wont go down this year.
“We will spend the next five games trying to get as high up the table as we can, because the players show no signs of complacency, of a lack of desire.”
Hodgson added: “The important thing for us was we had a clear, clear task at the start of the season – we have got to make certain we stay in this league again.
“It is nice that with five games to go we can probably say we have done that, so let’s see what we can add to it.”
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