Patrick Vieira reveals extent of injuries and absentees ahead of Brighton and makes Neal Maupay late goal admission
Patrick Vieira has admitted the late goal Crystal Palace conceded at home to Brighton in September remains in the memory but insists he has no specific interest in finishing above their rivals this season.
The Eagles travel to the south coast on Friday night for the latest instalment of a grudge match which has grown in prominence since it first truly developed in the 1970s.
A recent feature of the rivalry is late goals with the Seagulls striking in stoppage-time in two of the last three fixtures while Christian Benteke netted a 95th-minute winner for Palace at the Amex in February.
Neal Maupay hit a dramatic equaliser at Selhurst Park earlier in the campaign to earn Brighton a 1-1 draw which helps put them ninth in the Premier League and four points above the 12th-placed Eagles, who have not finished below their rivals since the 2012-13 season.
But Palace boss Vieira said: “No, there is no target to finish above any team.
“We know where we are and what we want to do is challenge ourselves to finish as high as we can. We can’t think about finishing above this team or that team.
“I think this is the kind of game players and fans are really excited about and looking forward to.
“The last game we played at home and the last-minute equaliser is still in our mind. We will go there with the same ideas of playing and to try to give ourselves the best chance of a positive result.”
James Tomkins and James McArthur will miss out with injuries for Palace, who were already without Cheikhou Kouyate, Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha due to their Africa Cup of Nations commitments.
Vieira is hopeful goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, who dislocated a finger last month, will return after he sat out last weekend’s 2-1 win at Millwall in the FA Cup.
All six are experienced players for Palace, who have brought down the average age of their squad over the last two years with sporting director Dougie Freedman making numerous signings from the Sky Bet Championship.
“This is the period where every manager will evaluate their squad, their team and look at what areas of the game we need to improve,” Vieira added.
“One of them is when you look at the last game against Millwall, you see how young we are and how inexperienced the team can be at times.
“We know we have young talent but those young talents need to be supported by players with a little bit of experience.
“It is always good for a manager like myself to have different characteristics in different positions as well and this is something we need to work on.
“I spoke a lot with the chairman (Steve Parish) and with Dougie about the feeling I have, what is missing and which part of the game we need to improve. If it happens, it is good. If it doesn’t happen, I am pleased with the players we have.”
A long-standing Palace target is Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah but despite the youngster being out of contract in the summer current Gunners boss Mikel Arteta is adamant the striker will stay at the Emirates this month.
Vieira insisted: “I have nothing to say about him. He is an Arsenal player and the manager makes it clear he will stay at Arsenal. I have nothing to comment.”