Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has been handed a huge boost ahead of Tuesday’s game against Leeds United, as Oriol Romeu could feature at St Mary’s this evening.
The Spanish midfielder had been expected to miss the rest of the season when he broke his ankle in the reverse fixture against Leeds at Elland Road in February, but he recently made his return to training and could feature against Marcelo Bielsa’s side in the teams’ penultimate Premier League fixture of the campaign.
Hasenhuttl confirmed in his pre-match conference that Romeu would be in the squad to face Leeds on Tuesday, although he hinted that the midfielder might well start on the bench.
Earlier in the season, Romeu and James Ward-Prowse established a formidable partnership in midfield and complimented each other brilliantly, which was a key factor in the Saints topping the Premier League table for the first time in their history in November.
Despite being absent for so long, the 29-year-old is still rated as one of Hasenhuttl’s top players in the Premier League this season, with his 6.97 average rating from WhoScored ranking him as the second-best performer so far this term.
It was no surprise that Southampton’s form between March and April was largely woeful, as Ibrahima Diallo has struggled to step up in the Spaniard’s absence, whilst Stuart Armstrong simply doesn’t offer the same defensive qualities as Romeu.
No player in Southampton’s squad who has played at least five times this season has averaged more tackles per game than Romeu, which emphasises his industrious style of play in the middle and also allows for Ward-Prowse to push forward in midfield, safe in the knowledge that Romeu will be there to cover for him.
After signing a new deal in October last year, Hasenhuttl was full of praise for the midfielder, saying: “He’s one of the most professional guys I’ve ever seen. When you see him as a professional, how he reacts when he’s not first choice, it’s unbelievable.”
Whilst Leeds come into this game in fine form, Southampton have won two home games in the last week and will want to finish the season as strongly as possible, so the return of one of their top performers in midfield may well concern Leeds manager Bielsa ahead of the game at St Mary’s.