Hodgson backs Benteke for Belgium World Cup selection

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The Crystal Palace manager believes his striker can go to the World Cup despite only scoring two Premier League goals this season

Christian Benteke is recovering his form and can earn a place in Belgium's squad for the World Cup, according to Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson.

Benteke has only scored two Premier League goals this season and was left out by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez for this week's friendly against Saudi Arabia.

The 27-year-old faces former club Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday and Hodgson believes Benteke is on the right track to book a spot for Russia 2018.

"He needs, and he knows he needs, to play as well as we think he is playing, at this moment in time," Hodgson told reporters on Thursday.

"I think his form is very much on the up. If the national coach, Roberto, was to watch his performance in particular against Huddersfield, but also against Tottenham and Manchester United, then he would be seeing the Benteke that he knows and has selected in the past.

"I would defy anybody not to be impressed by the defensive work he did against Huddersfield. His hold-up play, his ability to bring other people into play, his runs and his movement were all the things we were hoping to see from him, I believe we are now seeing.

"If he can add a goal or two or an assist to that, I am pretty certain that Roberto and his staff watching him will see the Benteke they know and want.

"All Christian can do is produce those performances to keep his club in the league and then hopefully that will be recognised by his national team and he will get a place in the squad to go to Russia."

Palace could be without influential winger Wilfried Zaha for Saturday's game against Liverpool at Selhurst Park and Hodgson confirmed James Tomkins and Alexander Sorloth are also expected to miss out.

"He has not been doing any training with us to any great extent," Hodgson said of Ivory Coast international Zaha. "We are nursing the knee problem that he has.

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"He is one that we will have a look at tomorrow [Friday] and we hope that the knee will be okay. We have had to be very cautious with him after the Huddersfield game because he came back from injury a lot earlier than perhaps he should have done.

"We were very disappointed to lose Jeffrey Schlupp in the last game, as he was out for a long time after the Brighton injury and did so well to get back so we are disappointed to lose him again.

"We still have have doubts on James Tomkins and Alexander Sorloth, so will check them tomorrow but they are very much doubts."

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