Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl has revealed midfielder Will Smallbone faces a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury sustained against Leicester.
The 20-year-old made his first appearance since September at the King Power Stadium, but was forced off with an injury that has now been confirmed as his anterior cruciate ligament.
It means the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international faces months out of action, and is the latest addition to Saints’ growing list of absentees.
“We have another big injury with Will Smallbone. It’s the worst for him and for us, an ACL injury, so half a year out, maybe,” Hasenhüttl said.
“It’s horrible for the young lad and for us. In the moment with injuries it is definitely not our best run, but there are some circumstances in this strange season that leads to a lot of problems with a topic that we didn’t have for the whole of last season.”
Hasenhüttl is already without Danny Ings, Jannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Redmond, Moussa Djenepo and Mohammed Salisu for tomorrow’s FA Cup third-round tie against Shrewsbury at St Mary’s.
“Not on Tuesday, definitely not, but maybe on Saturday,” he said of potential return dates. “The earliest return will be Ingsy, then Moussa maybe, with Ori and Reddy also in this group.
“Then maybe Jannik, but that can be in February, and Salisu is still longer out with a muscle injury.
“We have some problems at the moment with muscle injuries and there are some reasons I think that are responsible for this.
“We are in a fantastic building here but we cannot use anything (due to Covid-19). We cannot use our cryo chamber, the sauna, the pool, nothing, and we have still the same games with the same intensity.
“We are also limited in eating here together, so everything is not what we normally do in professional football, and there are reasons why we do it normally, so it’s not so surprising in some moments you have more injuries.
“It will be a mixed group tomorrow – some guys who have to play, because there are not a lot of alternatives, and some young guys will have to step in and show what they have shown in the sessions: that they are developing their game and deserve to get a chance to play.”