Southampton midfielder Stuart Armstrong could return against Chelsea on Saturday

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Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has revealed that Stuart Armstrong is closing in on a return to fitness and could even be in contention for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea in the Premier League.

The 29-year-old midfielder has yet to play this season due to a troublesome calf injury. He was on the bench for Saints’ opening day defeat at Everton, before the problem flared up once more.

Armstrong has been a big miss for Hasenhuttl’s team, who have yet to win a league game and have struggled in front of goal.

There was some surprise at St Mary’s this week when Armstrong was named in the Scotland squad for their forthcoming World Cup qualifying matches against Israel and Faroe Islands, despite not having resumed first-team training.

Hasenhuttl said: “He has been out for 42 days. That’s a long time. I don’t think that it is best for him to now play for the national team.

“He had a tough pre-season and then that injury took much longer than we all expected. It was a bad setback for him and it will be tough to come back.

“This week he has been training with the team. We will have a look at how he is and if he is good enough to play at the weekend. We will look at him and we will see what he can do for us.”

Southampton have not won a Premier League game without Armstrong on the field since December 2019, which only highlights his importance to the club.

“It is important now for him, and us, I know that he can score goals. I know that he is so important for us,” said Hasenhuttl.

“There is a lot of work to do and I hope that he sees this and he invests everything to get back to that level.”

Hasenhuttl also said one or two players were nursing minor knocks and niggles but nothing serious enough to put their involvement in the game at Chelsea in jeopardy.

Armando Broja is ineligible under the terms of his loan deal from Chelsea, while Jack Stephens (knee) is a long-term absentee.

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