Hasenhuttl admits he has been given a ‘problem’ by Yoshida

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl admits he has a “problem” after Maya Yoshida returned to the club from Asian Cup duty.

The central defender helped Japan to the final of the tournament, where they lost 3-1 to Qatar, but is now available for selection at St Mary’s again.

What’s the word?

Hasenhuttl has trusted in Jack Stephens to deputise while Yoshida has been away.

The 25-year-old has played against Leicester City, Everton, Crystal Palace and Burnley in the Premier League and the Saints have avoided defeat in every game.

However, Yoshida’s last appearance came in the 0-0 draw against Chelsea – the only clean sheet Southampton have kept under Hasenhuttl – and he accepts that he has a dilemma regarding his first-choice central defender as Southampton prepare for a vital clash with Cardiff City.

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“I have a problem now,” he said, per the Daily Echo. “Maya Yoshida is back and when he left the last game he played was a zero-zero against Chelsea, the only clean sheet since I’ve been here.

“It’s a good signal for the team if a player comes back and the team works very good that he’s not automatically back in the team.

“Maya knows at the moment I don’t want to change the back five as Jack [Stephens] did a fantastic job last week so it’s normal he will play now.

“But I’m happy Maya’s back as you never know.”

Southampton can move five points clear of the relegation zone with a victory over Neil Warnock’s side.

Decision yet to be made

Hasenhuttl does not appear to 100% have made his final decision.

Yoshida, of course, offers greater experience than Stephens and is also perhaps a more rounded defender.

But the 25-year-old has been in good form while his Japanese team-mate headed to the United Arab Emirates.

One thing does seem sure, however, in terms of who Hasenhuttl trusts in a backline.

Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek appear unmovable in a back three, so it comes down to a gut decision from the Saints boss.

Do not be surprised if, ultimately, Yoshida gets the nod.