Southampton duo Jay Rodriguez and Florin Gardos have resumed full training ahead of the Saints' Premier League fixture against Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on Saturday (27 February). Manager Ronald Koeman has welcomed them back into the first-team fold, but confirmed they will not be available for the visit of the reigning champions.
Rodriguez, 26, missed the entirety of the 2014/15 season with a serious knee injury and has played only a handful of games since returning before suffering a foot issue. Gardos, meanwhile, has been absent from the Saints first-team because of a knee problem.
"I am happy about the team and the squad because we had, this morning, everybody on the training pitch, including Florin Gardos and Jay Rodriguez," Koeman said during a pre-match press conference. "Of course, they are not available for the weekend, but they are back. They need more training, more gametime but it was nice to see 25 players on the pitch that means that we have good competition and everybody – not Jay or Floyd – but the rest are available."
Koeman admitted Rodriguez still remains some way off full fitness, but the Southampton manager is hoping he will be able to play a significant role in the Saints' run-in.
"It's difficult, because it's always difficult to say when he will be back," the Southampton boss said when asked about a possible return date. "He needs maybe one or two weeks more to complete all of the training sessions, then to start or to play 45 minutes or 60 minutes in the under-21s. But I hope that he is still available for the last part of the season."
Meanwhile, Koeman insisted he is expecting a tightly contested affair between his Southampton side and Guus Hiddink's Chelsea, who he feels have dramatically improved since the departure of Jose Mourinho in December. "I think they have some players back from injuries," he said.
"I think the Chelsea team at the moment is doing well and is maybe more comfortable than at the beginning of the season. Of course, they have good players, a strong team and it shall be difficult to beat them. But they know it shall be difficult to beat Southampton."