Thursday 22 August 2019

Mark Hughes confirms Shane Long is set to return as he looks to hand Ireland boss Martin O'Neill a boost

Southampton's Shane Long. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Action Images via Reuters
Southampton's Shane Long. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Action Images via Reuters

Mark Hughes has confirmed that Shane Long is fully fit after overcoming a toe problem, which should pave the way for him to play for the Republic of Ireland next week.

Long is available for Southampton's game against Chelsea on Sunday, with Hughes hopeful his striker can play a part along with a few more returnees.

"Shane Long is back, he trained today," stated Hughes. "Moi Elyounoussi also trained today, Ryan Bertrand trained and Alex McCarthy also. They'll all be available as long as we don’t see a reaction overnight."

Meanwhile, former Chelsea striker Hughes has insisted suggested that Eden Hazard should not be be considered Chelsea's greatest ever player despite his stunning early season form.

Even though the Welshman is a big fan of the Blues' current influential playmaker, he believes it is premature to discuss his place in the overall history of the west London club.

"Debates of that type are probably better made when he's a little bit older and got grey hair like me and then everybody can discuss the merits once everybody's finished," he said .

"He's an outstanding player. You look at his stats this year, he's had an impact in almost every game he's played.

"The key is to stop their key players having opportunities. (It is) very difficult in the Premier League to stop a team having any chances - it's very, very rare.

"We've just got to hope the chances they do create fall to someone else other than Eden Hazard and hopefully they'll have an off day."

Chelsea failed to mount a genuine title defence last season, finishing 30 points behind Manchester City in fifth place.

Results, however, have picked up since Antonio Conte was replaced by fellow Italian Sarri during the summer.

They have won five and drawn two in the Premier League this term and Hughes expects his former club to challenge Pep Guardiola's Manchester City and Liverpool for top spot.

"I think Chelsea will always be a (title) contender, you see the quality of their squad," said Hughes.

"The strength in depth they've got is comparable to all the other top teams.

"They will go close. They've got a new manager and it seems when Chelsea change management that initial season usually seems to be the one that they are very strong in.

"I feel, given what I've already seen, they will have a strong season and go very close."

Online Editors

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport