Roy Hodgson reckons the Christmas period could make or break Crystal Palace’s season.
Hodgson’s squad is down to the bare bones with six key players injured going into the busy festive season.
The manager is worried the overworked team will suffer by playing three games in just seven days, beginning with a Boxing Day home clash with West Ham.
With so many points up for grabs, Hodgson fears a run of bad results could see a fatigued Eagles slip down the table.
“It’s very harsh to ask players to play at the level we play at with a days rest in between,” he told reporters. “You’re not going to see the best of your team because it is physically too much to ask.
“It’s a very dangerous period because it is make or break. If things don’t go your way – injuries, fatigue, the fact you’ve been unlucky – suddenly you find yourself looking up the table rather than down the table.”
Centre back Mamadou Sakho returns to the squad after serving a three-game ban for his red card against Bournemouth.
Defenders Joel Ward, Gary Cahill and Scott Dann remain out, along with Jairo Riedewald, Andros Townsend and Jeffrey Schlupp. Midfielder Victor Camarasa is available after recovering from sickness.
Hodgson added: “I don’t enjoy [the Christmas period] but I don’t dislike it otherwise. Of course I fully understand we’re entertainers, we’re here to give the public what they want and what they want is full Christmas programme.
“They enjoy a Boxing Day, Saturday, New Year’s Day, that’s fantastic for them. We have to accept that but it’s not ideal.”