Danny Ings’ hopes of making England’s Euro 2020 squad have suffered a major blow after Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl suggested the striker may not play again this season.
Saints’ top scorer was forced off by a hamstring problem in last week’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham having claimed his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign.
The 28-year-old has not returned to training and will definitely be absent for Friday evening’s game at home to Leicester, casting doubt over his availability for the European Championships, which are scheduled to begin in just six weeks.
“It is not that (much) worse than it looked at first but it’s also that serious that he misses now a few games, I don’t know if he comes back for the last games,” Hasenhuttl said of Ings.
“We have Liverpool (on May 8) and then five games in two weeks so we need every player.”
Ings scored on his most recent England appearance – a 3-0 win over Wales in October – but did not join up with his country last month because of a leg problem.
He faces stiff competition for national team selection, with Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Marcus Rashford, Ollie Watkins, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood among the other attacking options available to manager Gareth Southgate.
Ings’ latest injury setback sees him join Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu and Will Smallbone in Saints’ treatment room.
With Bertrand’s current deal set to expire in the summer and Ings regularly linked with move away from St Mary’s, Hasenhuttl dismissed suggestions the pair were being left out for contractual reasons.
“It was definitely an injury and with Ryan Bertrand it is the same problem; he cannot train since two weeks because he has a calf problem,” said the Austrian.
“That’s it. What can I tell you?”
Southampton, who suffered a club-record 9-0 loss the last time they hosted Leicester, have plummeted down the table after taking just 10 points from a possible 48 in 2021.
Despite the poor run of form, Saints have a healthy nine-point buffer to the relegation zone courtesy of a strong start to the season, which briefly saw them top the table.
Hasenhuttl wants to finish the campaign with a flourish, starting with exacting a modicum of revenge on the Champions League-chasing Foxes following an FA Cup semi-final loss to them less than a fortnight ago.
“The target is clear that we want to have a much better average of taking points than we had in the second half of the season because that was simply not the performance we showed in the first half of the season,” he said.
“Yes, we had injuries; yes, there were some issues.
“But now we have to find back the quality to win these tight games where we are good in the game and cannot in the end take the points.
“This is important against the strong sides to show that we can do things better than in the cup game where, with the ball, it was not our best game.
“With the ball we must create more chances and I hope we have the quality tomorrow to do this.”