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REUTERS - Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce is keen on signing Sunderland's 34-year-old striker Jermain Defoe at the end of the season, but must wait until his own team's Premier League future is secure before a reunion becomes possible.
Sunderland have been relegated to the Championship and are likely to lose their top scorer, who has an escape clause in his contract, but Palace's slip-up against Burnley last weekend means they are not yet safe from the drop themselves.
"If we are safe in the Premier League and Jermain Defoe is available and he wants to come to Crystal Palace, I'd be interested," Allardyce, who managed the striker while in charge of Sunderland last season, told a news conference on Friday.
"But until that time when we are safe, I can't pursue that. Maybe by the time we are safe, someone else will have already done who is safe and who knows. He'll be a player in demand, no doubt."
Palace are in 16th place, six points above Swansea City who occupy the final relegation place, and tantalisingly close to safety on 38 points with three games to play.
Wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool propelled them away from the drop zone, but an injury to defender Mamadou Sakho saw them slump to back-to-back defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley, with the latter a particular concern for their manager.
"We need to defend correctly again," Allardyce said ahead of Saturday's trip to fourth-placed Manchester City. "Our defending against Burnley was ridiculous for the two goals, from wasting possession."
Palace host relegation rivals Hull City after the City game, before ending their season at Manchester United, and Allardyce knows he still has a fight on his hands to keep his record of never being relegated from the Premier League intact.
"It's a nonsense, 'too good to go down'," he added. "You're only as good as the league position shows you.
"It's a very nervous affair, this time of year. Us, Hull, Swansea and Leicester have all been making a big impact lately - you can't rely on others."
Winger Andros Townsend is a doubt for Saturday's game while midfielder Yohan Cabaye has been ruled out.
Sakho is in France undergoing rehabilitation for his knee injury and Allardyce could not confirm if the Frenchman would recover in time to play any further part in Palace's fight for survival.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris