Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino says midfielder Mario Lemina could face fellow strugglers Everton but has not yet decided whether he will utilise the Gabon international on Sunday (26 November).
Lemina, a £16.5m acquisition from Juventus in the summer, has been a rare positive for the Hampshire outfit so far this season, delivering a number of solid displays in the heart of midfield for Pellegrino's side, who currently occupy 14th in the Premier League table with 13 points from their opening 12 matches.
Southampton have missed Lemina's presence in recent matches against Burnley, Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool, but Pellegrino has revealed the 24-year-old is recovering well from his ankle injury ahead of the clash with Everton, who will be reeling from their 5-1 home defeat by Atalanta on Thursday [23 November].
"Mario is getting better, we will decide how we can organise the team. We've not decided yet," Pellegrino told Southampton's official website. "Most of the other players are okay. Matt Targett is the only player that will definitely be out as he still has an injury problem."
Lemina's return would be a critical boost for Southampton, who will be without influential anchorman Oriol Romeu on Sunday [26 November] due to suspension. The former Chelsea and Valencia midfielder has established himself as one of Saints' most important players since arriving in the summer of 2015, but Pellegrino, who is already feeling the heat after a shoddy start to the new campaign, thinks his side will be able to cope without the Spaniard.
"Oriol is an important player for us," Pellegrino said. "But I think we've got enough in our squad to try and replace him. Also it is an opportunity for other players.
Southampton are not the only team who will be without one of their most valuable stars through suspension this weekend. Everton will have to make do without in-form forward Oumar Niasse after the Senegal star controversially received a two-match ban for 'successfully deceiving' the referee with a perceived dive during his side's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last weekend.
Niasse, who was close to joining Palace in the summer transfer window, has scored six goals in all competitions for Everton this season and will also miss the home clash against West Ham United along with the trip to Southampton.