BY EDMUND BRACK
Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic has opened up on his season so far and explained how the loss of his father and injuries affected his pre-season.
The 30-year-old Serbian midfielder joined the South Londoners under Sam Allardyce in 2017 from Greek side Olympiacos and has made more than 150 appearances for the club since his arrival.
Milivojevic has only completed a full 90 minutes once under Patrick Vieira – in the 2-2 draw with Leicester – and has only made seven starts this season, with the Frenchman preferring to name Cheikhou Kouyate and Will Hughes to partner Conor Gallagher in the midfield three.
Milivojevic told PLP: “It’s been a very strange season for me, honestly.
“I missed a lot of pre-season. I missed my father as well at the beginning of the season, so it’s been a very difficult and strange situation for me.
“I have tried to be in the best shape and in the best way for the team, and I am trying honestly to be very focused, but I am always there for the team.
“At the moment, the manager is using the other players, but as a captain, when you’re put in difficult situations, you always need to be strong enough and show an example to the other boys who are looking at you. It’s important because maybe in the future, someone else could be in a similar position as myself.
“In my head, it’s to do every single training session properly, do my best, and give a good example to my team-mates because I have to be the one who has to give a good example in tough moments.
“I try to always be realistic with myself. For almost nine seasons in a row, I played over 30 games per season, so I was very thankful for being healthy, not having injuries and playing constantly.
“I know how difficult it is for one player when he misses pre-season. I wasn’t lucky as well.
“During this season, I had injuries – one in pre-season that took me out of training for two weeks.
“The other one was against Newcastle this season, where I received a very bad kick, and I didn’t train for almost seven to 10 days, so I understand all of this.
“At the moment, I am in a situation where I need to fight a lot for myself, so I am trying to do best for myself, for the club, and for the fans.”
After securing a win against South London rivals Millwall in the FA Cup third round last Saturday, the Eagles will travel to the Amex on Friday night to take on rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.
When asked how important the game tomorrow night was to Palace fans compared to Brighton fans, Milivojevic added: “I believe even more for us. In those kinds of games, there is always a bit extra for us to do for our fans and for our club.
“It will not be an easy game, especially since they are playing at home – they have a good manager and a good squad, so we are trying to prepare in the best way for that game and for them.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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