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Palace boss Hodgson defends Benteke after recent criticism

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has backed striker Christian Benteke to soon be among the goals again – and told former players to stop “abusing their profession” without knowing the full story.

The Belgian forward is yet to score for the Eagles this season, and has not found much consistency since his big-money move from Liverpool in 2016.

Former Eagles midfielder John Salako claimed Benteke had “been awful” in his time at Selhurst Park and he would be “flabbergasted” if the striker was offered a new deal.

Palace boss Hodgson, though, insists continued external criticism of the 28-year-old former Genk and Aston Villa frontman is unjust.

“I am always disappointed when professionals criticise fellow professionals, even if they are ex-professionals,” Hodgson said.

“I think that you do need to be careful in terms of abusing your profession in a way, by criticising other professionals without properly knowing all the details you would need to know.”

Hodgson added: “We here (at the club) see Christian trying his level best every week to get back to goalscoring form. We do our level best to help him, and let’s hope that day will come soon.”

Wilfried Zaha impressed in the 2-0 win over Norwich last weekend. Hodgson feels the Ivory Coast forward has responded after putting summer transfer speculation behind him.

“I am frightened to say too much in case I jinx him, because his performances have been very good,” the Palace boss said.

“There might have been a game or two when I threw him back in that it might have still been a bit raw that he had not got the transfer move he wanted.

“But of course with flair players, who have an exceptional ability, there is always going to be highs and lows in their performances, because they play in such small margins.

“We trust him, we believe in him – and I am just hoping that he brings that form we have seen in the past two home games, when he showed he is a potential match winner.”

Palace head to West Ham on Saturday looking to extend an unbeaten run to three games. The Eagles may be perched in ninth place, but Hodgson will keep everyone focused.

“Being ahead of the curve ball, as we are at the moment, can easily change,” the Palace manager said at a press conference.

“Most of us go through periods where defeats come our way and those defeats can pile up, but there is no point concerning yourself with that, because you never know what is around the corner.”

Captain Luka Milivojevic is suspended against West Ham after collecting a fifth caution, so Victor Camarasa could come into contention.