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Jeffrey Schlupp has point to prove on Leicester City return

5:40 AM MYT 23/02/2019
Jeffrey Schlupp Crystal Palace 2018-19
The Ghana international has hit some fine form as a return to his former club looms
If Leicester City had seen the kind of form from Jeffrey Schlupp that he’s shown in recent weeks, then they might not have offloaded him two years ago.

Crystal Palace parted with £12 million in January 2017 to secure Ghana international, who became one of the first of the Foxes’ miracle Premier League-winning side—after N’Golo Kante—to depart.

The wideman managed just four goals in his two and a half years in the top flight with the East Midlanders, but has already equalled that tally this season alone.

In fact, Schlupp has netted four goals since early December, with two coming in his last three matches, including a wonder goal in the weekend FA Cup victory at Doncaster Rovers.

With Wilfried Zaha struggling to match his output for last term, and with the likes of Jordan Ayew and Christian Benteke underperforming, Schlupp is emerging as an unlikely hero for Palace as they look to pull clear of the drop.

"He’s been fantastic this season, especially these last games," Roy Hodgson told BBC Sport when asked about Schlupp’s display against Doncaster.

"It was another important goal, his fifth and that’s not bad coming from midfield, playing in a position where he has to do a lot of defending.

"It was a cracking goal, to run from two yards in your own half, hold the ball that long, hold off challenges then strike it as well as he did was a great start for us."

Schlupp netted on the opening day of the season, as Palace dispatched Fulham, but was in and out of the side during the latter part of 2018.

As was the case at Leicester, where he was often overlooked for Christian Fuchs, it appeared as though Schlupp had failed to convince another Premier League manager that he was a worthy, regular starter in the top flight.

12 of his 22 Prem appearances this season have come from the bench, and it was a similar story for the wideman at Leicester.

He enjoyed a prominent role in the 2014-15 season as the East Midlanders pulled clear of the drop in some style under Nigel Pearson, making 32 appearances of which 30 were starts.

However, following Fuchs’ arrival under Claudio Ranieri, Schlupp found himself on the bench with a greater regularity.

He made 24 appearances that term, 10 coming off the bench, but probably won’t have had too many complaints after playing his part in one of the greatest underdog tales in the English game.

That all changed after Leicester won the title; Schlupp would make just one further league start for the club, before being dispatched to Palace.

In the intervening years, there’s been little to suggest the Foxes were wrong to allow Schlupp to leave; he was always unlikely to see much gametime at left-back following the emergence of Ben Chilwell.

Schlupp’s qualities haven’t always been appreciated by Palace fans since his arrival, although Hodgson insists that he’s one of the side’s unsung heroes.

“I've always believed in Schlupp,” Hodgson told journalists after the Eagles’ 2-0 victory over Fulham earlier this month, as per Football London.

“I believe in him as a left-back, I believe in him as a left-sided player and I believe in him as a left midfield player in a three because he has a lot of qualities.

“It's great if you're going to write something positive about him,” Hodgson said of the underrated wideman, “because it certainly backs up what we feel about him and he's been a little hard done by.

“Funnily enough in the area that he plays that's where the competition has been strongest.”

Hodgson’s words belied his own admiration in a player who is finally beginning to win over a broader audience with performances such as his dazzling showing against Doncaster.

“It's quite strange that players that sometimes receive the fanfare and, in particular the players who are heralded by the fans aren't always the ones that we coaches think are the most important people in terms of helping us to win games,” Hodgson concluded.

Now, imbued with confidence, and clearly taking on responsibility as some of Palace’s bigger names lose their way, expect Schlupp’s fine run to continue.

Back against his former club this weekend, and with a point to prove, don’t be surprised if the Ghanaian serves the hosts a heady reminder of happier times.