Patrick Vieira urges caution as Crystal Palace midfielder Ebere Eze returns to fitness
The former England youth international is back in contention for the first time since May when he sustained an Achilles injury which brought a successful first campaign at Selhurst Park to a premature end.
Eze returned to training in October but has stepped up his recovery during the last month with two appearances for Palace’s Under-23s and a friendly cameo to convince his manager he is ready to feature in the Premier League.
Vieira said: “Eze will be part of the group that will travel to Burnley.
“Obviously he is a talented player but he still has a long way to go from his best. We have to remind ourselves he will need time to get to where he was because of the injury he had but he will get there.
“He is building up his confidence week after week. He played the two games with the Under-23s, we played an in-house game, a friendly one, and he was feeling really well. He is improving but we have to give him time to get to where he was before his injury.”
The ex-QPR attacker was one of Palace’s most impressive players last season, scoring four times and providing six assists during his maiden top flight term.
Eze played on the left of a midfield four under Roy Hodgson , but Vieira, who has used a 4-3-3 formation during his time at Selhurst Park, has a different plan for the 23-year-old.
“My own responsibility is to find the best role that will allow him to express his talent and I believe that is more in the central area,” the Palace manager added.
“I saw him play some games last season on the left-hand side and he did really well. From the left-hand side you can’t ask him to stay on the wing, you have to give him this freedom to come inside and combine.
“He is the type of player who likes to touch the ball but we try him inside as well as in the midfield three as a number 10 and he was really good. There are a couple of positions where I believe he can help the team to perform.”
Eze’s return is timely with James McArthur out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring injury.
While captain Luka Milivojevic is set to be recalled at Burnley, Eze will expect to push for a place in Palace’s midfield three when fully up to speed but for now the Eagles are contemplating the loss of one of their longest-serving players.
“James has a hamstring issue and he is going to be out for the next couple of weeks,” Vieira revealed.
“He is part of the leaders of the team and he brings energy, experience and competitiveness, but we have a squad.
“Injuries give the opportunity to someone else, who has not played very much, to come and take that chance.”