Ralph Hasenhuttl looks to have been handed a big boost ahead of Southampton’s relegation clash with Sheffield United at the weekend, with Ibrahima Diallo having now recovered from the injury which kept him out for all of February.
The Austrian confirmed ahead of the game that the French midfielder was back in training ahead of the trip to Bramall Lane, and hinted that he could feature against Chris Wilder’s side on Saturday.
The 21-year-old missed all of last month due to a muscle injury and was a big miss in recent fixtures, particularly in the absence of fellow defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu, who has unfortunately been ruled out until next season after suffering an ankle fracture.
Southampton have been in awful form so far this year, as they have picked up just one point from their last nine games in the Premier League, which has seen them slip from European hopefuls to relegation candidates.
Should Diallo start on Saturday?
Therefore, to have Diallo back ahead of the game against a resurgent Sheffield United could be a big boost for Hasenhuttl, whose side lacked any real defensive discipline in their 1-0 defeat against Everton last time out.
Just seven points separate Southampton and 18th-placed Fulham, so the south coast club certainly cannot rule out the possibility of being relegated to the Championship this season, and must therefore ensure that they leave Bramall Lane with all three points on Saturday afternoon.
Having Diallo back in midfield should not only improve Southampton’s defensive solidity but could also have a promising impact on their attacking play.
If the Frenchman, who joined the Saints for £12.7m in the 2020 summer transfer window, stays deep to protect the defence, it should allow James Ward-Prowse to push on more and join the attacking play, with the midfielder having struggled for goals and assists in recent weeks after an electric start to the season.
It should also hopefully allow Hasenhuttl to move Stuart Armstrong back out wide, as the Scottish international struggled against Everton in central midfield and left Southampton vulnerable to the Toffees’ attack due to an understandable lack of positional discipline.
Therefore, it is a potential game-changer for Hasenhuttl to have Diallo back available ahead of the weekend’s game, and hopefully his return can be the catalyst for the Saints turning their awful form around.
And, in other news… Hasenhuttl made key tactical mistake with “very smart” beast vs Everton