Puel expects Romeu return to lift Southampton in Chelsea clash

Britain Soccer Football - Southampton v Crystal Palace - Premier League - St Mary's Stadium - 5/4/17 Southampton's Oriol Romeu in action with Crystal Palace's Bakary Sako Action Images via Reuters / Matthew Childs Livepic

REUTERS - Southampton's Oriol Romeu will give the club's midfield a significant boost when he returns from a two-match suspension for Tuesday's match against Chelsea, manager Claude Puel said.

The Southampton manager said Romeu has been a key to recovering possession in midfield and played a similar role to Chelsea's N'Golo Kante who was named player of the year by the Professional Footballers' Association on Sunday.

Kante has been instrumental to Premier League leaders Chelsea's hopes of winning the title and Puel said it has been harder for ninth-placed Southampton to play without Romeu.

"I think he's (Romeu) not far off Kante," Puel told a news conference on Monday. "He's very consistent and every game he gives good performances, with consistency and quality ... It's difficult for us without him."

Puel said defender Matt Targett was back in training after recovering from a hamstring injury, while left back Sam McQueen will miss the trip to Stamford Bridge due to a groin problem.

Southampton's joint top scorer Charlie Austin, who suffered a shoulder injury in December, is set to feature in the season-ending under-23 fixture at Manchester City on May 5.

"His (Austin) first training session will be on Thursday with the group and, after, it's important that he finds again his level and all his quality," Puel added.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Alexander Smith)