Belfast Telegraph

Virgil van Dijk could end Southampton exile on Saturday - Mauricio Pellegrino

Wantaway defender Virgil van Dijk could end his Southampton exile this weekend, according to manager Mauricio Pellegrino.

The Holland international handed in a transfer request over the summer amid strong speculation linking him with a move away from St Mary's.

Van Dijk has not featured in any of Saints' five matches so far this campaign due to the uncertainty over his future, and has not played competitively since suffering a foot ligament injury against Leicester in January.

He was selected for an Under-23 game on Monday evening - a 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa - and may now be a surprise inclusion for the Premier League fixture at Crystal Palace on Saturday as he attempts to get his career back on track.

Boss Pellegrino said: "Virgil was training well. He played 90 minutes the other day, the reserve game.

"But tomorrow (Friday) we will decide (whether he features against Palace).

"Hopefully he will be getting better every single week but I am happy with that - not just about Virgil because everybody I think is ready to be part of the team."

Van Dijk, who has been linked with a host of clubs including Liverpool and Chelsea, will be sticking with Southampton until at least January following the closure of the summer transfer window.

He captained the Saints last season, but Pellegrino was coy on whether the former Celtic man would reclaim the armband from midfielder Steven Davis.

"For me the captain is something that the team-mates decide and something that you have to deserve," the Argentinian boss added.

"Now, when he's not playing, you cannot put the captain on someone that is not playing, but obviously Virgil was one of the leaders of the squad."

Saturday's trip to Selhurst Park will see Saints come up against former England boss Roy Hodgson.

The 70-year-old returned to management this week for the first time since leaving the national team job, replacing the sacked Frank de Boer in the Palace dugout.

Pellegrino is unsure whether the managerial change will make the game more difficult for his side.

"Yes and no," he said. "Yes because we don't have too much reference about them.

"We know how Roy Hodgson was playing in the past but when you have got another group of players, everything changes.

"And no because 90 per cent of our job is to think about us, about our style, our model."

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