Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl hopes having Moussa Djenepo back with a smile on his face again can help kickstart their Premier League season.
Mali winger Djenepo missed last weekend’s defeat at West Ham having been given compassionate leave following the death of his mother.
Hasenhuttl accepts it has been a difficult spell for the 21-year-old, who joined from Standard Liege during the summer.
“Moussa is back now from the funeral for his mum. He seems to be getting into a better mode again,” the Southampton manager said. “It was not easy for him. We tried to help him as much as we can.”
Hasenhuttl expects Djenepo to be available for Saturday’s home Premier League match against Newcastle.
“It always helps if you are on the pitch and doing what you like to do the most,” the Southampton manager said at a press conference broadcast by the club.
“That helps you not to forget, but to get a little bit of deflection from what is around you at the moment.
“It has shown every day since he is here that he is getting his laughter back again.
“I like to see him laughing and don’t like to see him when he is sad. He was not really in a good moment when he came back, but now it is getting better and better.
“We are all helping him to get back to the Moussa we know, because he was always the most positive guy in the squad.
“This gives the whole squad a lift sometimes because he enjoys his job so much and was always positive for the team. Now we try to bring him back in this mode.”
Striker Danny Ings started on the bench against the Hammers, with the club mindful of his workload.
“It was good that Danny was rested last week because the risk was too high. It was a good decision, although we missed him a little bit,” Hasenhuttl said.
“He has trained well this week and is absolutely hungry to score again.
“We need him for important goals and he has some qualities which are special for us.”
Hasenhuttl, though, revealed midfielder Stuart Armstrong will miss out after it was confirmed he had suffered a concussion early on during the West Ham game.
After hauling themselves clear of the relegation zone, Saints have now lost for four of the last six league matches.
“We know that we did not make our best game last weekend, so it is about us to show up again with a different performance,” Hasenhuttl said.
“On our home ground we want to show a good reaction and I am sure the players know what it is about.”