Puel awaits results of Van Dijk scan as Saints fans hold their breath

Puel awaits results of Van Dijk scan as Saints fans hold their breath

With just 24 hours to go before their biggest game of the season so far, Southampton are still unsure whether they have to make do without their star man.

Kit Shepard

It looks set to be a nervous wait for Claude Puel and Southampton, as they will soon know whether newly-appointed team captain Virgil Van Dijk will be fit for their EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool tomorrow night.

The Dutch centre-back has been the Saints' undisputed player of the season so far, meaning his absence would be a monumental blow to their chances of making it to Wembley, as they head to Anfield looking to defend a slender 1-0 lead.

An awful time to get injured

As the second-half of Southampton's encounter with Leicester City at St Mary's began last Sunday, it seemed as if nothing could spoil the home side's perfect day. Goals from James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez had put the Saints in control at the break, and the defending champions looked miles off the pace.

With the three points already in the bag and manager Puel perhaps turning his attention to the upcoming trip to Merseyside, disaster struck. Jamie Vardy, never one to shy away from a physical challenge, caught Van Dijk's ankle as he went to make a simple clearance, felling the big centre-back. Despite initially trying to soldier on, the 25-year-old was forced off in the 55th minute, overshadowing Southampton's impressive 3-0 win.  

Van Dijk's injury comes at a dreadful time. Photo: Getty.

With Liverpool just around the corner, Van Dijk really could not have chosen a worse time to get injured. 

Fitness in doubt

With just three days to recover from what looked like a painful challenge Van Dijk, perhaps surprisingly, could still feature for Southampton on Wednesday night. 

Puel has assured Saints fans that the injury "is not serious", and that the defender is "having a scan" to reveal the extent of the damage. However, the Frenchman admitted that he is unsure whether "he can participate" against the Reds.

Puel will be desperate to have Van Dijk available for the Liverpool game. Photo: Getty.

After Southampton's failure to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League, as well as their on-going inconsistent form in the Premier League, the clash with Jurgen Kloop's men is all that stands between the Saints and a shot at their first major trophy in 41 years, an achievement which would turn a very average season into a memorable one on the South Coast.

Consequently Puel, whether he is religious or not, will be praying fervently to the heavens that Van Dijk's injury does not rule him out. The Netherlands international has been arguably the best centre-back in the league this season, attracting the attention of the country's biggest clubs. Southampton's chances of progressing to the final without the aerial dominance, deceptive pace,36 and general presence of Van Dijk at the back are no doubt much less than if he was fully fit.

Not all doom and gloom

One piece of good news coming out of Southampton's treatment room is that new club captain Steven Davis could return to the side after a few weeks on the side-lines. Puel stated that the Northern Irishman's fitness status is "better", than Van Dijk's, and he could make his return at Anfield.

Steven Davis could return tomorrow for Southampton. Photo: Getty.

While the 32-year-old has been nowhere near as pivotal to the Saints as Van Dijk, his consistency and experience would be invaluable as they look to secure a historic victory.