Patrick Vieira has insisted it never crossed his mind Christian Benteke could leave Crystal Palace during the January transfer window and firmly expects the forward to remain at Selhurst Park.

Burnley have been linked with a move for the Belgian but the 31-year-old, who has 18 months left on the deal he signed last summer, will not be ending his affiliation with the south Londoners yet.

Benteke is primed to face former club Liverpool on Sunday and will hope to add to the four goals he has for the campaign.

Vieira said: “Yes, I think he will be at this football club. Christian loves this football club and he is part of what we are trying to do.

“I shouldn’t even have anything to comment on because it never crossed my mind there would be a subject there.

“Christian is a Crystal Palace player, he is happy here, I am happy for him to be here and we are working together to try to take the team to a different level.”

The Eagles boss was less emphatic on Jean-Philippe Mateta, another striker who has been linked with a departure from SE25 with St Etienne eager to sign the Mainz loanee.

But the Frenchman has been offered more opportunities recently and has responded with goals in victories over Norwich and Millwall.

“This is a period where there is a lot of speculation but what is important for me is about the reaction I got from the players on the field,” Vieira added.

“With Mateta, we are building his confidence and belief because he is playing more games.

“Physically as well he is feeling better and better, so what he showed me on the field is that he wants to be part of what we are trying to do. That is good for us and good for me, so I am happy with that.”

After a busy summer for sporting director Dougie Freedman and chairman Steve Parish, Palace are still to make any new additions this month.

But Vieira insisted: “We will try to improve the squad but this is a difficult period to find the right players.

“We are working and trying to improve and if we can bring a couple players, that will be good for the squad. If not, we’ll keep trying to improve players individually so we can be a little bit stronger collectively.”

Jordan Ayew is in contention for Sunday’s match after he returned this week from the Africa Cup of Nations following Ghana’s shock early exit.

Cheikhou Kouyate and Wilfried Zaha remain out in Cameroon for the tournament with their respective countries of Senegal and Ivory Coast while James Tomkins and James McArthur are also absent with injuries.

Vieira was hopeful Tomkins and McArthur would “take part in some training next week” with Premier League clubs set for a mini-winter break after this round of top-flight fixtures.



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