Ralph Hasenhuttl appears to have suffered a huge blow at Southampton ahead of their game against Burnley on Sunday, with James Ward-Prowse a doubt after picking up an injury on international duty.
The 26-year-old did not feature in England’s final World Cup qualifying fixture against Poland after he was sent back to Southampton as a ‘fitness precaution’.
However, Hasenhuttl has since confirmed that the midfielder hasn’t trained with the club at all this week as they prepare to take on Sean Dyche’s side at St Mary’s, with a calf problem casting doubt over whether he will be fit enough to feature.
It would be a big blow to the Austrian manager if he were without his captain, as Ward-Prowse has played every single minute for the Saints this season and has enjoyed arguably his best campaign in the top flight.
The academy graduate has contributed seven goals and five assists in 29 Premier League appearances, resulting in an impressive 7.10 average WhoScored rating – the best of any Southampton player this season.
What is even worse for Hasenhuttl is that fellow midfield options Oriol Romeu and Will Smallbone are out for the season, so he may be forced into a difficult decision on Sunday if Ward-Prowse is unavailable.
The Austrian was full of praise for the England international, who reportedly earns £45,000 per week, earlier this season for the way he has set the precedent as captain following the decision to strip Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg of the armband last season ahead of his move to Spurs, saying:
“He reacts how I expect a captain to react. This is not so much off the pitch, much more on the pitch because that is where you win games, not off the pitch.
“You have to walk out there and always be the role model of what we are standing for. When you see him running and him fighting for everything in every game then this is what a captain should do.”
Therefore, to have such an influential player potentially missing for a game in which the Saints will undoubtedly be targeting three points as they look to bring an end to their torrid run of Premier League form could prove to be disastrous for Hasenhuttl.