Southampton boss Claude Puel to assess Virgil van Dijk ahead of Liverpool clash

23 January 2017 04:23

Southampton manager Claude Puel is sweating on the fitness of Virgil van Dijk ahead of the crucial EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool on Wednesday.

Saints hold a slender 1-0 advantage heading to Anfield as they seek to reach their first major cup final since 2003, but they may have to do without the Dutchman who picked up an ankle knock during their 3-0 win over Leicester on Sunday.

Van Dijk's injury took the gloss off Southampton's impressive victory at St Mary's, which marked the end of a torrid run of four straight defeats in the Premier League.

Despite the 25-year-old indicating on his Twitter account that the setback is not too serious, Puel is uncertain on whether the defender will travel with the team to Merseyside.

"It was a good kick (on his ankle)," Puel said. "He couldn't continue the game yesterday, for example.

"It is not serious but I do not know if he can participate for this game. He is having a scan and I will wait for the results at the moment."

Following Jose Fonte's £8million transfer to West Ham last week, Puel named Van Dijk as the new team captain at St Mary's.

The 55-year-old boss says the decision was easy to make, but dismissed the notion that the captaincy was an attempt to persuade the Holland international to stay at the club.

"Easy? Of course," Puel added. "Jose left Southampton and Virgil will be the captain with Steven Davis.

"Captain to stay? No. It is natural when Jose did not play in the beginning of the season, Virgil, Steven or Maya Yoshida will be the captain.

"I think it is normal. Virgil will stay captain of the team. I think it is important because he has good values and, for example, during training sessions, on the pitch and in the dressing room.

"We have a good mentality in the squad and I think different players can bring an impact."

Southampton's opponents Liverpool have failed to win a league game in 2017 and suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat against struggling Swansea on Saturday.

Puel could become the first manager since Gordon Strachan to lead the Saints to a major final but the Frenchman insists he is not looking ahead to Wembley just yet.

"I cannot think about this," he said. "I cannot think about the final before we play in the second leg.

"It will be a mistake to think about the final because, for the moment, (we are) just one goal up and Liverpool can make the difference against any team.

"It is important to stay with a good focus for this game. Not just in defence but it is important to play, to score and to push them.

"We know this game will be difficult against a good team and good players. They lost to Swansea and they will want to react and play well in the second leg but it is important to stay with a good focus and mentality.

"We are in the situation where I think it is not sufficient. It is just a one-goal lead so I think it will be important to score one more goal."

Source: PA