Team News: Crystal Palace
Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
A delighted Javi Gracia will have a bumper squad to choose from this weekend after reporting positive news from the treatment room.
The Head Coach said this afternoon that Andre Gray and Christian Kabasele both returned to full training with the team this afternoon, meaning Sebastian Prödl (knee) is the only player out injured.
"We have 26 players ready," said Gracia ahead of the game at Crystal Palace. "This is good news for us."
Gray has recovered from the lower leg problem that has seen him sidelined since the home defeat to Manchester City at the start of last month, while Kabasele has been passed fit after the heavy blow to the left-hand side of his upper body against Chelsea.
Gracia must now decide if a couple of days' training is enough for the pair to be considered for the game at Selhurst Park.
"It's a little bit soon for them to play in one or two days, but we'll see," said Gracia. "We have more options and I think it will be better if we continue, keep training and we'll see their evolution."
Gray could find himself fighting it out with Adalberto Peñaranda for the second striking option Gracia ideally likes to have on the bench. Stefano Okaka was on the bench five times this season, but he has joined Udinese on loan in search of regular opportunities, thus creating an opening for one of the other strikers.
"First of all, speaking about Stefano, in my opinion he is a great player and a great person as well," said the Head Coach.
"He was very important for the squad, not for minutes he can play but for many other things. In this moment the club, the player and me thought it was better to make this step and to go on loan for rest of the season. In this position, we have many strikers, many different options and it was better for all of us to make this decision."
Marvin Zeegelaar has also joined Okaka at the Serie A side owned by Giampaolo Pozzo.
"Marvin is another situation, as Okaka was with the team," said Gracia of the left-back who last played for the first team in February of last year against West Ham.
"I didn't speak with him in this case, but the club speak with him and they decide it was better to make this step."
It would not be a press conference right now without a question about the coveted Abdoulaye Doucouré.
"I can't tell you anything different as nothing has changed," said Gracia. "He keeps training in the same way he was doing and, in this moment, everybody knows, he is playing well, scoring goals and he is a very important player for me. I don't have any new news. For me, he's in the same point as the last weeks."
So many mangers or coaches use press conferences at this time of year to plead for more players, to send a message to the board or the owner that they are one or two short, but not Gracia.
"I am happy with the squad I have," said the Head Coach. "I think with the players we have, we can complete a very good season and if, in one week or in some days, something changes, we'll see and I'll tell you what I think about that. I prefer to value my players because they deserve it. We need to be ambitious and demanding with the players we have."