Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlines Southampton fitness 'hope' ahead of Leeds United clash

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The striker has not featured since suffering a calf issue against Leeds United earlier this month.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is optimistic the potential return of Che Adams could give Southampton an advantage during Sunday’s Championship play-off final clash against Leeds United.

Adams missed both of his side’s semi-final meetings with West Bromwich Albion after picking up a calf issue during the final-day win at Elland Road. The striker is out of contract this summer and so Sunday’s Wembley meeting against Leeds could be his last game for Southampton, with reports suggesting he will be in the Premier League next season regardless of the result.

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Sunak, a Southampton fan, was at St Mary’s to watch his side beat West Brom 3-1 in the semi-final second-leg on Friday and the Prime Minister could well be at Wembley on Sunday, with hope that Adams will return to fitness in time to make an impact.

"Well, it was great to be at St Mary’s on Friday night with my family,” Sunak told GB News, having laughed off the question of whether he’d prefer to win the general election or see Southampton promoted. “It was a really special moment for the club, for the players, for the manager and in fact, the whole city was celebrating.

“I have never experienced an atmosphere like that at St Mary’s, for years at least. It was really brilliant, I am really delighted for everyone. I am looking forward to Sunday, hoping Che Adams is fit and we can march back up to the Premier League. Here we come.”

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Adams is expected to be involved on Sunday, with Southampton manager Russell Martin confirming after Friday’s win over West Brom that the striker offered to play for around 15 minutes but was not risked. Steve Clarke also named 27-year-old in his Scotland squad for Euro 2024, strengthening consensus that he will be fit to feature.

Speaking after Friday’s win at St Mary’s, Martin insisted both Adams and Ross Stewart - who was a notable absence in the second-leg win - should be available: “[Stewart] is fine yeah. He took a whack in the first leg, but he’s taken part in some training and he was only going to be used tonight if we really, really needed him. We are really expecting him to be fully fit. And, recovered in time for the final as well. It could be two really big options for us with Che Adams.”

Southampton will be without long-term absentees Stuart Armstrong and Gavin Bazunu, however, having both missed the final-day clash at Elland Road. Leeds will be without Pascal Struijk but the fitness of Patrick Bamford remains uncertain. The forward missed both semi-final legs with a patellar tendon issue but has not been ruled out for Sunday.

Leeds finished one place and three points above Southampton over the regular 46-game season but were beaten twice by their final opponents. Whites boss Daniel Farke insisted games played before the play-offs now mean nothing and defender Ethan Ampadu echoed his manager’s thoughts earlier this week.

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Sunday’s winner will join automatic promotion winners Leicester City and Ipswich Town in the Premier League, with only one of last season’s relegated trio set to remain in the Championship for at least another year.