Ralph Hasenhüttl has confirmed Southampton midfielder Stuart Armstrong is back in training and in contention to replace Theo Walcott, who is ineligible to face parent club Everton at St Mary’s.
Armstrong was forced to miss the thrilling 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last time out after testing positive for COVID-19 whilst on international duty with Scotland.
With Walcott unable to make his second home debut in Saints colours and Moussa Djenepo still sidelined by a hamstring problem, the boss is grateful for Armstrong’s return ahead of Sunday’s meeting with the Premier League leaders.
“He’s back and didn’t have a lot of symptoms – a little bit, yes, but he could immediately train hard with us and had no further issues, so he feels good,” Hasenhüttl said of Armstrong.
“It was disappointing because he was in perfect form and one of our most important players, so it shows how much we have to stick to our social distancing, because it’s not the virus itself that makes you struggle, it’s more the quarantine you have to take.
“We have seen a few examples before with the protocols where because somebody’s positive, a lot of people in your surrounding have to go in quarantine – this is the bigger problem for me.
“We know that we have a problem with Theo being out, because we are playing against Everton, and Moussa is still out with an injury, so we have a little bit of a problem on the 10 position, but Stuey has an opportunity, absolutely.”
Elsewhere, youngster Will Smallbone (quad) is also out, while Hasenhüttl gave an update on summer signing Mohammed Salisu, who is still yet to make his debut for his new club.
“Sali is still building up to being part of the team,” he added. “He has been in team training this week, completely, but we have to be careful with him.
“There were some bigger issues we had with him and these issues will last a little bit longer, so we have to take care of him, but he is coming back.
“Maybe it takes one more week and then he is able to play, but we will give him all the time he needs to solve his issues.
“We knew it was not a short-term project. It is a long-term project, he is a good guy, and I’m sure that he will help us in the future.”