Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images

Ralph Hasenhuttl confirms Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu in contention for first minutes since February vs Leeds

Ralph Hasenhuttl has confirmed that Oriol Romeu is in contention for his first minutes since February when Southampton host Leeds United on Tuesday night.

The Saints have been without Romeu since he fractured his ankle in defeat to the Whites at Elland Road, when it was thought that surgery would rule the Spanish midfielder out for the rest of the season.

Romeu had been a crucial aspect of Hasenhuttl’s tactics when fit earlier in the campaign with the 29-year-old starting all 20 of his Premier League appearances, split by a calf issue that restricted his involvement following the turn of the year.

(Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)

Southampton have only won four of the 11 top-flight fixtures since Romeu was forced off the field 70 minutes into a 3-0 loss at Leeds in February, but can clinch a third successive win by beating the Whites at St. Mary’s after results over Crystal Palace and Fulham.

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Hasenhuttl admits the visit of Marcelo Bielsa’s side may come too soon for Romeu to start, but claims the £65,000-per-week (Spotrac) talent could make the bench in an unexpected end-of-season boost alongside the return of Jan Bednarek from a heel issue.

“Oriol has an opportunity to play,” Hasenhuttl said, via quotes by the Saints’ club website. “We must handle it carefully, but I’d like to have him in the squad, even on the bench. We must have a look at how his body reacts after training today [Monday], then we can make a decision.

“Jan Bednarek has no problems anymore with his heel. He trained yesterday [Sunday] and is training today. He will be in the squad, yes. For Ori, maybe it’s a little too early to come back into the team, but maybe on the bench.”

TBR’s view:

While there are no guarantees of Romeu making the Southampton bench, let alone starting against Leeds, Hasenhuttl confirming his return to training will come as a huge boost for the Saints having expected his season to be over following his injury in February.

Hasenhuttl, in particular, will be buoyed by the Spaniard’s return, having lauded Romeu earlier in the term for displaying a level of professionalism in his game the Austrian had not seen from anyone before.

“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,” Hasenhuttl said, via quotes by the Daily Echo. “He’s always the first on the pitch, always hard-working.”

Romeu can now continue to build fitness in his ankle over the final two matches of the season and return in the summer refreshed, raring to go for the new campaign without playing catch-up to those he will be competing with for minutes.

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