Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira has urged Jean-Philippe Mateta to fight his way back into the matchday squad.
The South Londoners have the option to sign the French striker, who joined last January under Roy Hodgson on an initial 18-month loan from Mainz, at the end of the season for a fee in the region of £15million.
Since the 1-0 EFL Cup loss to Watford in August – the last game the 24-year-old started for the Eagles – Mateta’s only appearance has come in a four-minute cameo during the 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
Asked how Mateta, who was left out of the side for the home victory against Wolves and away draw with Burnley, can work his way back into the matchday squad, Vieira said: “He just needs to keep challenging [Odsonne] Edouard and Christian [Benteke].
“Obviously the manager makes a decision, and I make a decision. It’s difficult for him – but he has to keep fighting. We’re going into a really busy period, and we don’t know what will happen. Players will have an opportunity. It will be important for them to get ready and to take that opportunity when it comes.”
Vieira also admitted that it was too early to make a call on whether the club will be looking to sign Mateta permanently.
The 45-year-old also praised Benteke’s recent performances, with the Belgian striker scoring a brace away at Burnley to take his tally to four goals this season.
Speaking on the possibility of Benteke rediscovering his form from his time at Saturday’s opponents Aston Villa, where he scored 42 goals in 89 appearances, Vieira added: “As time goes on you lose your legs a little bit, especially as a striker. But that doesn’t take away his cleverness and strength inside the box.
“We play in a way that suits him as well. He is more involved in the game. That allows him to express his talent, create chances and score goals. Something that will never change at 20 or 30 is that when you’re a goalscorer, you’re always going to score goals.
“I’m really pleased because now he’s playing with a lot of confidence and belief, and that’s really good for us.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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