Having only recently rejoined the Southampton squad from an injury that kept him out of AFCON’s yearly tournament, Sofiane Boufal is facing time on the touchline again after limping off in the 3-1 home loss to West Ham.
In a shocking turn of events, it could even leave the record-signing out for a vital trip to Wembley in an EFL Cup final against Manchester United.
Post-game on Saturday, a dejected Claude Puel admitted he hopes “it's not important” or a “bad injury because he's a talented player” but when posed the question of the extent of his player’s suspected ankle injury, he stated “I don't know for the moment”.
It would be a harsh reality for the 23-year-old; his wonder goal at home to Sunderland in the fourth round that set the wheels in motion for a chance to win it all.
Saying that Boufal is unique to the Saints squad is an understatement - his talent is even special when looking at the club’s past decade.
Where the likes of Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana could be seen as challengers - but only that, this magic Moroccan has the ball retention of a Lallana and the quick feet of a Mane.
Not only that, his footballing brain is beyond that of just a skilful winger – Boufal’s able to pick out difficult passes or narrow angles for dribbling, and furthermore, he’s aware of when to attack and when not to.
These attributes are clearly lacking in a Saints team that time and time again fails to convert chances; sometimes you need a bit of special to unlock the opposition.
Blatantly evident when Southampton finally unlocked the door of David Moyes’ Black Cats; all game long there seemed to be no answer or no option to score - until one man decided enough was enough and plucked the ball perfectly from the sky, turned and poetically bended one into the top roof of Jordan Pickford’s net.
You'd have to go back to the Matthew Le Tissier era to find goals as unique as that for the red-and-whites.
Striking new partnership
Puel did elude to the creation of a new partnership for his side up front as well, with the signing of Manolo Gabbiadini.
“He had a good relationship with Gabbiadini” chimed the Saints coach. It’s hard to argue either; both frontmen take pressure off the midfield by making themselves available – something that the team has missed all season long.
Southampton’s newest Italian also showed signs of being able to take defenders on with natural skill on the ball – similar to his new teammate Boufal.
So what's next for Southampton
Firstly, a trip to Sunderland, which is never fun for the South coast side – or any Southern team for that matter – before heading to London on the 26th for what could be the biggest game in Southampton’s recent history.