(Reuters) - Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino will make a late decision on whether to include defender Virgil van Dijk in his squad for their trip to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday.
Van Dijk featured in his first game since January for Southampton’s under-23s on Monday after the club fended off interest from Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea for the Dutchman during the transfer window.
“Virgil was training well. Tomorrow we will decide,” Pellegrino told a news conference on Thursday.
“Hopefully he will be getting better every single week, but I am happy with that because, it’s not just about Virgil; everybody is ready to be a part of the team.”
Van Dijk was named Southampton captain following Jose Fonte’s move to West Ham United in January but Pellegrino says he will have to earn the armband again this season.
“For me the captain is someone who the team may decide and something that you have to deserve – not something the manager can give the player,” the manager said.
“You cannot put the captain as someone who is not playing, but obviously Virgil was one of the leaders of the squad.”
Palace begin a new chapter under manager Roy Hodgson, who replaced sacked Frank de Boer on Tuesday after they suffered four consecutive league defeats at the start of the season.
Pellegrino acknowledged Palace could switch their playing style under the former England manager, whose teams are known for prioritising defensive solidity.
“We knew how Roy Hodgson was playing in the past, but everything changes when you have a new group of players - 90 percent of our job is to think about our style and our model,” the Argentine added.
“We are thinking more about the individual qualities of our players. I see this game as an opportunity to try to get better from the last performance.”
Southampton, who lost 2-0 to Watford in their last outing, have five points from their opening four games.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis