Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has revealed that Ryan Bertrand is getting closer to full match fitness.
The left-back has been out of action since the 1-1 draw with Watford in November.
The Englishman had to undergo minor back surgery which was initially meant to keep him sidelined for two weeks, but he has taken longer than expected to recover.
As quoted on the Daily Echo, Hasenhuttl said:
I think he is still raising his physical strength. On this part, he has to work because he was long out and it’s normal that if you start again training with the team it takes time until you are at the level where you can play 90 minutes.
It doesn’t make sense to bring any player on the bench if he is unable to play 90 minutes at the moment. That’s what he has to work on and he is doing it.
“We’ve had ten very good intensive sessions [since Bertrand’s returned to training] and played 11 against 11 for a long time in the sessions. It’s been very intensive with a lot of long runs and that’s exactly what he needs at the moment to come back into the best physical shape.
The Englishman has seen his position in the starting lineup taken by Matt Targett, who has been impressive in recent weeks.
Bertrand knows that he must now fight for a starting place as everyone has increased their levels of performance since Hasenhuttl arrived.