Lee Cattermole is ahead of schedule as he battles back from a double hernia operation, David Moyes has revealed.
The Sunderland midfielder was initially ruled out for between four to six weeks after undergoing surgery at the start of the season.
Lee has started running again, which is very good, I would say he is ahead of scheduleDavid Moyes
Moyes confirmed he is back running but admits he is wary of rushing him back too soon and causing further injury.
There was brighter news for Jan Kirchhoff too, as he steps up his recovery from a hamstring strain, with the German set to join in training with the rest of the squad over the international break.
Neither will be available at Southampton this afternoon, with several of Moyes’ first team players undergoing late fitness assessments - including Steven Pienaar and Lamine Kone.
On Cattermole, Moyes said: “Lee has started running again, which is very good, I would say he is ahead of schedule.
“It is good to be ahead of schedule, of course, but you don’t want any other injuries.
“He seems to have struggled, from what they tell me, very rarely been able to train after a game, or misses the odd day.
“I want to get rid of that, I want to be able to get boys out on the field every day.”
Elsewhere, captain John O’Shea (hip), Kone (back), Pienaar (knee) and Jeremain Lens (foot) will all be assessed, along with striker Fabio Borini (toe) who has returned to training.
Everton-target Kone returned to light training on Wednesday.
Moyes says he also needs to see if the Ivory Coast international is in the right frame of mind before making a final decision, after the centre-back recently turned down the offer of a new contract.
Reflecting on the injury situation, Moyes said: “John O’Shea has done a little bit of light training, we don’t think his hip is as bad as it was.
“He will be assessed. Kone is the same, he has done some light work and will be assessed.
“Fabio Borini, he had a problem with his foot, he trained yesterday and we are waiting to see if there is any reaction.
“Jan Kirchhoff has started some light training, we hope he maybe back in next week with the football work.
“If Lamine is fit enough and in the right frame of mind, I have to consider it with what we have got.”
Pienaar came off after an hour against Shrewsbury Town on Wednesday night, with the 34-year-old feeling a slight niggle in his knee.
Moyes added: “He has done really well, he has made us play but he came off with a little niggle behind his knee.
“He is another one we are assessing.
“We have had to push him into two intense 60 minutes, it has taken its toll.
“I have to hope he is okay but there is a chance he is not.”
Lens, meanwhile, missed the EFL Cup win with a foot injury after bruising it after colliding with a post in training.
Moyes added: “Jeremain Lens bruised his foot, he ran in and caught his foot on the post. He ran yesterday but didn’t kick the ball because of the bruise on his foot.
“He would have played Wednesday night, that knocked me down with another injury.
“We are assessing so many, the games come up so quickly.”