Patrick Vieira plans to start Crystal Palace’s strongest side in Millwall tie

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  • Crystal Palace
    Crystal Palace
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Patrick Vieira
    French association football manager and former player
  • Wilfried Zaha
    Wilfried Zaha
    Ivorian association football player (born 1992)

Patrick Vieira intends to play Crystal Palace’s “best team” at Millwall in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

The Eagles will be missing three key players in Cheikhou Kouyate, Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha due to their Africa Cup of Nations commitments, but the Premier League club have no plans to rotate against the Sky Bet Championship outfit.

Vieira won the FA Cup five times as a player and is aware of how important the tournament is to Palace, who finished runners-up in 1990 and 2016.

“For me, it was always clear to put the best team on the field to compete,” the 45-year-old said.

“It is a derby, it is the FA Cup and it will be challenging. We will need our best starting XI to compete and to try to win the game.

“This competition means a lot to the football club. We want to do well and obviously I am part of this football club, so we want to compete and we want to do well in the competition.

“I always loved playing in the FA Cup and I think it is one of the best competitions worldwide. I have been privileged to win it.

“You always remember the first and the last one. The one with Arsenal in 98 was magical and the last one with City (in 2011) means a lot to me because that was the last one and it was with a fantastic group of players. I have some really good memories about the FA Cup.”

With Palace 11th in the Premier League and 12 points above the relegation zone, it was put to Vieira this could be a good opportunity for him to win a first senior trophy as a manager.

But the ex-Arsenal captain attempted to dampen expectations, adding: “We are far away off from winning trophies or thinking about winning trophies.

“What is important for us is to understand how these games can be important for the football club. We have to go step by step.

“We need to go through to the next round and going to the next round we need to win the game. To allow ourselves to do that, we have prepared ourselves all week and now we have to go on the field and perform.

“We don’t want to look at the biggest picture here. We just need to go out there and perform to win the game to see how far we can go.

“Obviously this competition is important because it will give us belief and we need to win games to have momentum as a team and as a football club.”

Conor Gallagher will return at the Den after missing the last two games with an unspecified issue but James McArthur (hamstring) remains absent.

Vieira was coy over Palace’s transfer activity for this month, insisting Jean-Philippe Mateta “will be part of the group” for the cup tie despite speculation linking him with a move to St Etienne.

On reported interested in Eddie Nketiah and Aaron Ramsey, the Eagles boss insisted: “There is not much to say about those players because for us what is really important is to concentrate and focus on the players we have.”

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