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First team

Team news: Smith Closing in on Return

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Adam Smith is feeling better and could feature on Sunday in the crucial Premier League match with Southampton, says Eddie Howe.

The full-back suffered concussion during the home fixture with Tottenham, meaning he missed the games with Leicester and Manchester City.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference – via video call from Vitality Stadium – the Cherries manager addressed the injuries within his squad.

“Adam Smith we’ll make a late decision on,” said Howe. “He’s felt better so he’s got a chance. Chris Mepham, Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis will probably all be out.”

Nathan Ake, who suffered a groin injury in the win against Leicester is unlikely to be ready for this weekend, though Howe hasn’t ruled him out from the season finisher at Goodison Park seven days later.

The manager said: “I don’t think he’ll make this game, whether he’s be back in for Everton, whether he has a chance for that game, I don’t know at this moment, but for this game I think it’s going to be too tight.”

With the side facing a build-up of fixtures since the restart, Howe talked about minimising burnout in his players and how they are dealing with the high demands currently being placed on them.

Questioned on whether his players are feeling fatigue, Howe answered: “I’d say no within the group, I don’t get that feeling. Especially watching us at Manchester City, our performance showed fatigue wasn’t an issue and actually we got stronger as the game went on.

“We’ve tried to rotate the team as much as we can while keeping the strength of the team. We’ve tried to use the substitutions rule to give players rest at certain stages, trying to minimise fatigue.

“We’re certainly aware that during this spell to play the same players consistently for 90 minutes would have been a big problem so hopefully we’ve got that balance right.

“We’ve got injuries defensively which almost takes that out of our hands, but I’d say the majority of the squad, the ones who are fit, are in a very good place.”

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