Wilfried Zaha will be returning to London after Ivory Coast went out of the Africa Cup of Nations on penalties to Egypt on Wednesday evening. A goalless draw meant that the two sides would go to penalties with Manchester United’s Eric Bailly missing for Ivory Coast. Zaha came on in the second in place for Max Gradel and he took the final penalty and converted comfortably. Egypt scored every penalty with Mohammad Salah slotting home their final spot-kick.
Egypt 🇪🇬 send Ivory Coast 🇨🇮 out of the AFCON after a nerve-wrecking penalty shoot-out 🥵 pic.twitter.com/RC3rqzoiur— 433 (@433) January 26, 2022
Zaha didn’t play as many minutes as we would have expected him to, only starting in one of the four matches. This means that he should still be fresh when he comes back to play for Palace. That said, this weekend sees the Premier League’s winter break return for the first time since the 2019/20 season. There wasn’t a winter break last season since the league had started later due to COVID stoppages mainly in April and May 2020. This means that Zaha will get some time off and join up with the team for training before the FA Cup 4th round tie at home with Hartlepool.
With Jordan Ayew returning already from the competition, this only leaves Cheikhou Kouyate as the last Palace player to be absent at the tournament. He missed Senegal’s last match against Cape Verde due to being banned from the number of yellow cards received. Otherwise, he has played every minute of the tournament. Senegal is also the bookmakers’ favourite to win the tournament at the minute with the final on the 7th February. They face Equatorial Guinea in the Quarter Finals and if they win, they will face either Tunisia or Burkina Faso in the semi-finals. So, it looks likely that Kouyate won’t be back available until at least early February more like mid-February.
Palace Co-owner Josh Harris Mulling Bid for Chelsea
It’s been a week since Roman Abramovich announced that he had decided to sell Chelsea FC. Immediately there were rumours and even confirmed businessmen that wanted to table offers for the club. Abramovich is asking for a hefty £3bn and in the current circumstances, it’s a buyers market rather than a seller.
Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that one of the Crystal Palace owners, Josh Harris, is lining up a bid for the west London club. This news will raise questions between the Palace owners as he’d have to sell his stake in Crystal Palace FC.
Josh Harris & Crystal Palace
Josh Harris became a majority shareholder in Crystal Palace in 2015 along with his business partner David Blitzer. There was an initial £50m investment from the pair and then in 2017, they founded a company for their many sports ventures named Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE).
With John Textor buying a stake in the Eagles back in 2021 for £87.5m, this would have reduced the ownership of Harris and Blitzer. Whilst Harris and Blitzer owned 18% of the club each, this is probably less now as Textor reportedly has 40% of the club’s shares.
The Financial Times approached a representative of Josh Harris for a comment, but they declined. The reports so far only mention Josh Harris so it’s not sure whether he’ll sell off his shares and Blitzer will stay or whether they’re both going to make a bid for Chelsea via their business, HBSE.
What it could mean for Palace
It was rumoured that Textor wanted to buy more of the club when he invested last year, but wasn’t able to. Since then, he’s also been busy investing in other teams like Brazilian side Botafogo and Belgian side RWD Molenbeek. It’s also said that he still wants to invest in a Portuguese side after his Benfica bid was rejected.
We already know from Sky Sports that there are up to 10 parties interested in the club. Including the Todd Boehly-Hansjorg Wyss consortium, Muhsin Bayrak, RedBird Capital Partners, Thomas Ricketts, Nick Candy, and Conor McGregor has apparently even thrown his name in the ring. A lot of these rumoured names will drop off in the coming weeks so it’s still early for what will happen about Palace’s ownership.
One speculation is that if Josh Harris did make a successful offer then Textor would buy his shares in Crystal Palace. That is just speculation though.
Kouyaté and Senegal Heading to the AFCON Final
Senegal went one step further to get their hands on the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy by beating Burkina Faso 3-1 in the semi-final. Palace’s Cheikhour Kouyaté started the match after not starting in the quarter-final against Equatorial Guinea. This time out, he didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet, but he helped the team in that defensive midfield role as he does with the Eagles.
It was an exciting game that was all square at half-time, with a flurry of goals in the last 20 minutes. Liverpool’s Sadio Mané finished off the match with a goal to make it 3-1. With Egypt facing the host nation Cameroon in the other semi-final, it could be a battle between two of the Premier League’s top strikers in Mané and Salah.
The news that Senegal has reached the final means that Kouyaté won’t feature for Palace for the FA Cup tie with Hartlepool as expected anyway. With the final being held on the 6th of February, we expect him to be out of the game against Norwich on the 9th. Then, only three days later Palace faces Brentford who has just signed Christian Eriksen until the end of the season. Whether Kouyaté will be in the squad for that match is still unknown at this time.
Kouyate gave an exclusive interview to London World and mentioned that he feels the support from the Palace faithful. Here’s some of what he had to say in the interview: “I really feel the support and I know that they are watching,”
“I will be back, but for now I want them to support me and help with the AFCON so I can return as a champion and we can have a great season together.”
“We deserved to the win against Equatorial Guinea,” he told London World. “We have been working hard and progressing slowly throughout this tournament.
“All the games are tough here, and when you get to the knockout stages of AFCON you need a bit of luck and pray to avoid any bad injuries. I must say we are together, so fingers crossed one after the other.
“I won’t say anything – we all know what winning the AFCON will mean to all of us.”
“We need to remain humble and we need to stay focused if we want to win this tournament,” he said. “We don’t have to put ourselves under any other pressure, we just have to stay humble.
“If we want to win this game, we need to go there fighting.”
Kouyate and Senegal make the semi-finals of the AFCON
Cheikhou Kouyate is the last of the three Crystal Palace players that went to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to remain in the tournament. Senegal eased past Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in the quarter-final and Kouyate even got on the scoresheet. He didn’t start the game after missing the round of 16 match due to suspension, but he came on in the 65th minute for Pape Gueye and showed his quality by scoring within a few minutes of being on the pitch.
This means that Senegal will face Egypt in the semi-final which will be a great matchup. Salah versus Mane is going to be an interesting affair. This is to be played on the (date) so Kouyate won’t be back to training with the Palace squad for at least a week. There’s the potential that he’s away even longer if they make it to the final on the 7th of February.
Also, Ayew was offered five days off after his international duty with Ghana although he want to get straight back into training and playing, even featuring against Liverpool. Kouyate played every minute of the group stage so we wouldn’t be surprised if Vieira also offered him five days off to rest. Whether he wants to accept that is another story.
Wilf Zaha will be back available for the fourth-round FA Cup tie against Hartlepool. It looks like Palace could go on a good cup run this year hopefully getting as far as we did in 2016 with another trip to Wembley. That would be a great achievement for Patrick Vieira in his first season at the club.
Senegal will go into the semi-final as favourites for the match as they face Burkina Faso. Though as everyone knows anything can happen in tournament football. Still, we’ll be cheering for Kouyate and Senegal to go all the way!
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