Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is set to hand Ghana defender Mohammed Salisu his eagerly anticipated debut in their FA Cup clash with Wolves Wolves on Thursday.
Saints will lock horns with their Premier League rivals twice in four days, first in the FA Cup and then in the Premier League on Sunday.
The central defender has not played a minute of professional football since July – in Valladolid’s campaign-ending draw with Levante – and arrived at Staplewood last summer nursing an injury.
The club opted to sign the defender for a fee believed to have been in the region £10.9m, despite his injury problems, and confident that a bright future lies ahead of him on the south coast.
Over the past week, Saints have looked to step up his training preparations and have put him through a number of gruelling first-team sessions to provide them with the confidence that he is able to handle a senior game.
And now, four sessions on from his training return, Hasenhuttl has been given the green light to use him.
Salisu had hoped to make his debut for the club in their third-round clash with Shrewsbury Town earlier this season.
The 21-year-old proved his fitness to his manager but, only a week prior to their competition entrance, he sustained an injury and was forced to pull out.
On Saturday, Salisu returned to the bench for the first time since Boxing Day but was not deemed ready for Premier League action unless absolutely necessary.
“This is the fittest he ever was, so far,” Hasenhuttl told HampshireLive, confirming: “He will be available to start on Thursday, yes.
“This was the plan, it didn’t work the first time [against Shrewsbury]. Let’s hope it works now.”