Patrick Vieira has played down the midfield battle between Kalvin Phillips and Conor Gallagher to get a starting spot in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for England.
The pair of senior internationals are both gunning for a place in the Three Lions side ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year. Phillips, who formed a solid partnership in midfield with West Ham’s Declan Rice at last summer’s European Championship, has had an injury-hit campaign at Elland Road that has opened the door for Gallagher to stake his claim to start.
The 22-year-old – on loan with Crystal Palace from Chelsea – has enjoyed a breakthrough season in south London, earning his first call-up to Southgate’s squad in November and making his debut against San Marino. He followed that up with two more appearances at Wembley in March, featuring in friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.
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Both Phillips and Gallagher are likely to come up against one another on Monday night when Leeds travel to Selhurst Park in the Premier League, but ahead of their battle, Palace boss Vieira was keen to play down their rivalry.
“I don’t think the England manager will make his decision based on one game only,” the Frenchman told reporters on Friday. “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.”
Vieira was then asked how the two midfielders compare, with the former Arsenal captain and recent Premier League Hall of Fame inductee saying that both players had different strengths when it came to their games.
“Maybe Conor can project himself going forward a little bit more and Phillips is more of this holding midfielder,” he added. “But [Phillips] has this mobility to be box to box, he can drive with the ball as well, so both of them have a lot of energy I would say and good options for [Southgate].”
Leeds head to south London on Monday night on the back of a four-game unbeaten run in the Premier League. Palace, meanwhile, have lost each of their last three fixtures, with their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea at Wembley sandwiched between away losses in the league at Leicester and Newcastle.
Whites boss Jesse Marsch – appointed in February following Marcelo Bielsa’s sacking – has so far successfully managed to pull Leeds away from the threat of relegation, with the side currently three points above the drop zone and hoping to pull further clear with a result at Selhurst Park.
“They’re a good side,” added Vieira. “They, like the majority of the teams in the Premier League, play with a lot of energy. They have pace, and they have got a new manager with a different philosophy, but they’ve been doing well, so we expect a challenging game.”