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Saints' Hasenhuettl supports five subs but warns it won't reduce injuries

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - RB Leipzig vs TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany - April 21, 2018 RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl before the match REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/File Photo

(Reuters) - Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl said on Friday he would fully back the return of five substitutes in the Premier League even though it helps teams with big squads, but he rejected suggestions it would lead to fewer injuries.

Clubs in the English Football League (EFL), which oversees the three tiers below the Premier League, decided this week to again permit five substitutions in games due to the tight schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier League managers facing injury issues in the current campaign have called for the rule to return in the top flight after it was first introduced at the end of last season.

“I wasn’t in the past a big fan of five substitutes... the crazy thing is I didn’t use it very often. I don’t really think it avoids injuries,” Hasenhuettl told a news conference ahead of Monday’s visit to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“One fact, for me, is clear. When you have five subs the game doesn’t slow down in the end, it speeds up again so that means it can cause problems for the guys still on the pitch.

“I don’t think it protects you from injuries. It definitely helps you to flip players a bit more and have more rest time for some of them... especially for teams that have more games. It’s an advantage for them but I can take it, it’s OK for me.

“The five subs in this special season with this very intense time, a lot of fixtures coming up, it’s a good thing.”

Midfielder James Ward-Prowse is set to return after a hamstring injury that forced him to withdraw from the England squad, while full back Ryan Bertrand is fit following a similar problem that kept him out of the 4-3 win over Aston Villa.

Southampton are fourth in the table with 16 points from eight games, while Wolves are ninth on 13.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris