Ralph Hasenhuttl has confirmed that Stuart Armstrong is ‘ahead of schedule’ in his recovery from a hip injury.
The former RB Leipzig boss revealed the news in his pre-match press conference ahead of the FA Cup fourth round replay against Tottenham on Wednesday evening, in which his side could set up a fifth round tie against Norwich at St Mary’s with victory.
Armstrong sustained the issue in the initial meeting with Spurs, which ended in a 1-1 draw after Sofiane Boufal’s excellent finish cancelled out Heung-min Son’s effort.
The Austrian coach said: “Stuart is ahead of schedule. He could maybe be fit quicker than we think, but fit for Wednesday, I don’t think so.”
Before his hip injury, the former Celtic man – who was once described as the ‘blond Cafu’ by Brendan Rodgers – was performing at an excellent level.
The manager described Stuart Armstrong as 'the blond Cafu' for his Man of the Match performance in an unfamiliar right-back role.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) November 5, 2016
The 27-year-old had netted two goals in his last three Premier League outings before injury struck, scoring a crucial goal away to Leicester in a 2-1 win, before netting a long-range screamer at Selhurst Park in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
You only need to see how the Southampton fans on Twitter reacted upon hearing of his injury to see how highly they rate the Scotland international as well.
Additionally, his progress is even more welcome news given the Saints’ upcoming fixtures.
Only six points separate Southampton from fifth place, ahead of a favourable-looking run of games involving match-ups against Burnley, Aston Villa, West Ham, Newcastle and Norwich, Arsenal and Watford – you could argue that the game against the Gunners will be tough, although Mikel Arteta’s men are currently level on points with the Saints.
Of course, every game in the Premier League is tough – however, before the 4-0 loss to Liverpool last time out, Southampton had won five and drawn one of their previous seven league games.
If even half of these fixtures ended in victory, and other results went their way, Hasenhuttl’s side could well find themselves in an extremely promising position in terms of making the Europa League as we enter the business end of the campaign.
In other news, this transfer target who is “a bit moody sometimes” could be a hindrance to Will Smallbone…