Southampton’s Puel hopeful on Austin

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Southampton’s injured striker Charlie Austin has returned to first-team training and could be back in action before the end of their Premier League campaign, manager Claude Puel said.

The club’s joint top scorer Austin, who suffered a shoulder injury in December, is set to feature in the season-ending under-23 fixture at Manchester City on 5 May.

“Austin is back with the group for the first time, which is good news,” Puel told a news conference before the club host Hull City in the league on Saturday.

“For the moment it is important for him to make progress with his fitness. He didn’t play for a long time … It is important to find a good rhythm, a good intensity. I hope he can play with the Under-23s.”

Left back Matt Targett was also back in first-team training after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Southampton, who are currently ninth in the league, have suffered back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea after picking up seven points in three games earlier this month.

Puel, who joined the club at the start of the campaign, asked for more consistency in the final six games if they are to finish in the top half of the league table for the fourth consecutive season.

“We have six games left. It’s not a lot, but they are important, because we want to finish in the top half.”

Puel’s Southampton host relegation-threatened Hull who have failed to register a single victory on the road since August.

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