English Premiership

Pelle set for Saints return

Graziano Pelle (Getty)
Graziano Pelle (Getty)

London - Southampton striker Graziano Pelle is returning to full fitness after missing the club's last four games with a knee injury and could play against Watford in the Premier League on Wednesday, manager Ronald Koeman said.

The Italy international is the south coast club's top scorer with 11 goals in all competitions, but has not found the back of the net since Nov. 1.

The Saints have won just one of their last eight league games, a poor run that has seen them drop to 13th in the table.

Speaking to reporters at his pre-match news conference, Koeman said the 30-year-old Pelle had been playing through pain for weeks, before he was omitted from the side after the 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Dec. 19.

"Maybe he did too many sessions on 60 or 70 per cent and that's sometimes difficult because then I believe you start to play the weekend also at 60 or 70 per cent," the Dutchman said.

"That was the big decision ... to put him out to give him the time to recover and then he is back at 100 percent, and what he needs to play on his level."

With his squad nearing full strength, the manager will be hoping that Southampton's fortunes are about to change.

Shane Long led the line during Pelle's absence, scoring two league goals in the 4-0 win over Arsenal on Boxing Day and Koeman said he was happy with the strikers in his squad.

"Normally we played always with Graziano in front and we know his qualities, the team knows his qualities... (but) Shane in my opinion did it very well," he said, quoted as saying by the club's website.

"Maybe he missed two or three big chances ... but he created a lot, he was doing his movements, but he's a different type of attacker than Graziano is."