Mario Lemina
Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina will miss a third straight game with an ankle injury Julian Finney/Getty Images

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino insists that Mario Lemina is making strong progress in his recovery from injury, although the central midfielder will not be available to face Liverpool this weekend.

The Saints set a new club transfer record of £18.1m ($23.8m) when they signed Lemina from reigning Serie A champions Juventus in August and the Gabon international impressed in his first seven appearances in English football before sustaining an ankle problem in training following last month's 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Such an issue has already seen the player miss back-to-back Premier League contests against Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley and he will remain sidelined for Saturday's (18 November) trip to Anfield despite making positive strides over recent weeks.

"Mario Lemina was training well, much better than before," Pellegrino told reporters at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. "But he will not be ready to play Saturday.

"We looked at his problem three weeks ago and he's improved a lot [since then]. But it is too soon to put him on the pitch again."

With no new setbacks suffered during the international break, Jeremy Pied is Southampton's only other absentee for Liverpool as the French right-back continues to rehabilitate a long-term groin injury.

Striker Charlie Austin came off the bench against former employers Burnley after being ruled out of the Brighton match due to an unspecified knock, while Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis and Italy striker Manolo Gabbiadini have both trained after their respective World Cup qualifying play-off disappointments and are expected to play.

The meeting with Liverpool sees former Valencia and Alaves boss Pellegrino go up against the club for whom he made a handful of appearances towards the end of his playing career before later returning to Merseyside for a two-year stint as first-team coach under Rafael Benitez.

The game is also one of obvious significance for centre-back Virgil van Dijk, who continues to be linked with a lucrative move to Liverpool after an ugly summer transfer saga that saw him go public with a transfer request.

Pellegrino stated earlier this week that he believes the former Celtic defender will be "100%" focused as he prepares to face the club he looked set to join before Liverpool issued a humiliating apology for "any misunderstanding" amid claims that they were about to be reported to the Premier League over an alleged illegal approach.

Quizzed again if Van Dijk was now focused and excited for the remainder of the season, he added: "Yes, for sure. He's training well, thinking about our club. We can't control the market and the whispers all the time and talk about something that we can't control."