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Daily Echo

Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino faces defensive dilemma as Jose Fonte returns

Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author

Reported by Adam Leitch

Chief Sports Writer

Published / Sport

One of Alan Pardew’s best Saints buys is hoping to be fit enough to face his former boss.

Centre half Jose Fonte, recruited by Pardew for £1.2m three years ago, is on the verge of a first team comeback as Saints travel to Newcastle a week on Sunday.

As revealed by the Daily Echo at the time of his knee injury, Fonte has been ruled out for six weeks since being stretchered off during the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea.

During his time on the sidelines he has seen Nigel Adkins replaced as manager by Mauricio Pochettino, Vegard Forren recruited in his position at a cost of £4m and Jos Hooiveld, pictured, form an increasingly impressive partnership with Maya Yoshida.

It is sure to be a battle for Fonte to win back his place in the side but the Portuguese had been growing into the role of a top flight centre half before his injury struck.

But at least he is now closing on a first team return with the game at St James’ Park the current target.

Pochettino has a clear weekend thanks to that FA Cup defeat to Chelsea to prepare his team for the Newcastle match.

Though Saints hardly missed any of their injured first team players as they defeated champions Manchester City 3-1 at St Mary’s, he will be happy to have a fully fit squad to choose from as soon as possible.

His four other injured squad members are also expected to return in time for the Newcastle game.

Luke Shaw and Gaston Ramirez both missed the win over City but are pencilled in for a return in time for Newcastle.

Danny Fox limped off during the City victory but a fortnight to recover should see him ready to return while Guly do Prado is also expected back after a knee injury.

Whether Pochettino will be able to fit any of them into the side remains to be seen.Even captain Adam Lallana has still not broken back into the starting line up after a spell on the sidelines, such has been the form of Pochettino’s men.

Fonte will no doubt be keen to face off against the man who recruited him from Crystal Palace.

At the time the move to Saints was a drop in divisions for Fonte but in 137 appearances for the club he has played a major role in helping the side to back-to-back promotions to earn a place in the top flight.

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