West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis is "hoping and praying" that an independent training programme specifically devised for Saido Berahino can help the controversial striker return to full fitness following suggestions that he is currently too heavy.
Berahino, who has made four starts and one substitute appearance for the Baggies in 2016-17, has not played since a narrow loss at Bournemouth last month and was omitted from the matchday squad for last weekend's hard-fought 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur. Subsequent reports stated that the 23-year-old reported for training eight pounds overweight and has now been put on an tailor-made individual regime in order to help solve the problem.
"No, not really," Pulis told reporters at a press conference held before West Brom's Premier League trip to Liverpool when asked if he was disappointed that Berahino was having to complete extra work. "I think we've come to the conclusion that that's the best way forward for Saido and he's bought into it as well.
"We're taking him out of the firing line and it's important that we get him back to the sharpness and fitness. We think, as a football club with the medical side, that's the best way of doing it.
"When you're playing as we are at the moment, the players are training hard at the beginning of the week and then dropping off and Saido's having the weekend off as well. So we've put a fitness programme in place and we're hoping and praying that will benefit him and get him back to where we want him."
When asked directly how Berahino had gotten overweight, he added: "You'll have to speak to the medical side. There's all different reasons, I don't think there's just one reason. We've looked at it and the lad's bought into it as well. He wants to get himself as fit as he can. We think this is the best way of doing it."
While Pulis was not pressed on the player's availability for Liverpool, The Telegraph suggest that he will be assessed by medical staff ahead of the Saturday teatime kick-off at Anfield. However, Pulis's comment that his charge has been taken 'out for the firing line' would suggest he will not be involved as West Brom continue, with Salomon Rondon earmarked as the lone striker ably supported by in-form summer signing Nacer Chadli.
Berahino notched 20 goals and put himself on the cusp of a senior England call-up during a breakthrough 2014-15 campaign, yet his previously promising career stalled following an ugly and protracted transfer saga, after which he angrily declared that he would never play for chairman Jeremy Peace again. The forward scored just seven times last season and is yet to find the net at all this term amid a 14-game drought that stretches back to February, yet Pulis maintains he is not disappointed with him.
"No, not at all," he added. "As I've said all along, I think Saido's got too many people around him talking to him at times and he gets carried away with different ideas and different thoughts... The situation is the situation. We've decided this is the best way to get Saido fit, to get him back on board and to get him playing the way he played when I first came here. That's very, very important for this team and it's very, very important for the club."