Injured Sunderland winger Jeremain Lens expected to return against Southampton

Jeremain Lens.  Picture by FRANK REID
Jeremain Lens. Picture by FRANK REID
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Jeremain Lens could be available for next week’s trip to Southampton after undergoing a hernia operation.

Wingers Lens and Duncan Watmore are the only first-teamers missing from Sunderland’s squad for this weekend’s clash at Sam Allardyce’s former club West Ham, with Seb Larsson and Younes Kaboul back in the fold, while Jan Kirchhoff and Billy Jones have recovered from minor knocks.

Watmore faces “several weeks” on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage in the draw at Liverpool earlier this month.

But £12million summer buy Lens is pencilled in to return for the clash at St Mary’s on Saturday week after surgery during the two-week break from Premier League action.

Sunderland boss Allardyce said: “Lens has had the surgery and he’s recovering well. He could be available for Southampton.

“There’s only Jeremain Lens and Duncan Watmore who are missing.”

The pause in competitive action came at a good time for Sunderland, with long-term absentees Larsson and Kaboul both returning to full training.

Neither have featured competitively in 2016 after Larsson was plagued by a knee ligament problem which dragged on for longer than expected, while Kaboul was sidelined with hamstring and then ankle injuries.

January capture Kirchhoff has also been able to shake off the hamstring strain which forced him off against Manchester United a fortnight ago, while fellow defensive option Billy Jones is available again after a hip problem.

Allardyce added: “Jan’s injury wasn’t too serious. It was just a twinge mmore than a pull. That’s recovered well.

“Seb’s back with us now after what’s been a long wait - it’s been five or six weeks longer than we expected.

“Younes had a setback when he got fit, and then twisted his ankle, but he’s back now.

“Billy Jones is alright after his hip.”