Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has given a downbeat update about the return to action of striker Christian Benteke, who recently underwent surgery on a knee problem.
The 27-year-old Belgium international has been out of action since early September, but a statement from the Selhurst Park club on Thursday hinted that Benteke might return sooner rather than later.
I think it will take until into 2019 before we see him, but hopefully earlier than later in 2019.
However, Hodgson has now confirmed that that is not the case, with his player definitely ruled out until the New Year and, perhaps, well beyond then.
He told Sky Sports: "We tried the conservative route to put an end to his knee problem, which he has suffered with for a while. That didn't work out.
"There was always the risk that if it didn't work out an operation would be necessary and I got the bad news that the operation was necessary, had taken place and now he will be out for a long period of time.
"It's an operation and normally operations take time. It is dangerous for people like myself to start saying 'it will be this amount of time', because you fall foul of the doctors and the sport scientists who have a different view.
"But there's no doubt we won't be seeing much of him this year. I think it will take until into 2019 before we see him, but hopefully earlier than later in 2019."
Benteke joined the Eagles from Liverpool in the summer of 2016 and has since scored 18 goals in 71 Premier League appearances for the Londoners.
Palace are currently priced at 6/1 to be relegated this season, while they are available at 1/9 to beat the drop.
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