Patrick Vieira plays down Conor Gallagher and Kalvin Phillips’ midfield battle

The England midfield duo will face off at club level on Monday night.

Patrick Vieira’s side face Leeds on Monday night (John Walton/PA)

By George Sessions, PA

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has played down the significance of Conor Gallagher and Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips going head-to-head on Monday.

The two England internationals are rivals for a starting berth in Gareth Southgate’s national team with Declan Rice seemingly guaranteed a place in the XI.

Phillips was a regular for the Three Lions at last summer’s European Championship but an injury-hit season has opened the door for Palace’s eight-goal midfielder Gallagher to make his senior debut and he was involved again in the March international camp.

But Vieira was eager to take the pressure off ahead of the duo doing battle at Selhurst Park.

“I don’t think the England manager will make his decision based on one game only,” he said.

“He knows what he can get from Phillips, because he has been with the national team for quite a while, so he knows what he can bring to the team.

“Conor is getting there, he is making a name for himself and has been really good for us this season.

“Of course these six games will be massively important and Conor has to keep that level of performance to allow him to have a chance of going to the national team.”

When asked to analyse the pair, given his own standing as one of the Premier League’s midfield greats, Vieira felt Gallagher was able to break forward more to be a goal threat but praised the box-to-box nature of the Leeds midfielder.

The ex-Arsenal captain was less flattering about Phillips being dubbed the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ by the Elland Road faithful having faced Andrea Pirlo on numerous occasions and managed him at New York City.

“Both Conor and Phillips have a lot of energy, I would say and are good options for the (England) manager,” Vieira added.

On ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ talk, he insisted: “It’s difficult to compare those players, I personally don’t see them as the same profile.

“Pirlo was Pirlo. He was really technical, his game understanding and the way he was seeing the game, there are not so many players who I can see do that at this level.

“Phillips is a different profile, he likes to cover ground, he likes to run around where as Pirlo was a more static player. I see them as two different players.”

Vieira will hope Gallagher can return to form – after a two-month goal drought – to help Palace end a three-match losing streak, having been subbed off during the midweek loss at Newcastle.

The form of the Chelsea loanee has contributed towards captain Luka Milivojevic being restricted to a bit-part role this season despite being a regular under old boss Roy Hodgson.

Milivojevic is about to enter the final 12 months of his contract and has only made eight league starts this campaign but Vieira was adamant the Serbian remains part of his plans when quizzed on the topic.

“Of course,” he said. “Luka is our captain, he is one of our leaders on and off the field.

“He had a couple of injuries that stop him from really being consistent in training and getting that rhythm of game after game.

“Then on the other side, we have some players who have taken their chances and it was really difficult for him to find time to play but he’s been supportive when he hasn’t played and been a real captain.”

Palace need 13 points from their final six matches of the season to set a new record for the club in the Premier League and that may be enough to secure a ninth-place finish, which would also be a new club record in the division that formed in 1992.

Until the campaign is over, Vieira is not ready to talk about progress.

“There is still a lot to get and then we will talk about the conclusion, how I saw the season and what we can improve as a team,” the 45-year-old revealed.

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