Dejan Lovren is back from injury feeling stronger than ever and is targeting a top-six finish in the Premier League.

The centre-half was named among the substitutes for Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at West Ham – his first involvement since damaging ankle ligaments at Sunderland last month.

Lovren is likely to be fully fit for next weekend’s clash with Liverpool, at St Mary’s, which will be a major boost to Mauricio Pochettino ahead of the run-in.

The setback at Upton Park left Saints ninth in the Premier League, and dealt a blow to their Europa League ambitions.

Pochettino’s side now trail fifth place by 11 points, and are half-a-dozen behind both sixth and seventh, where European qualification could drop to.

While the gap appears quite substantial, Lovren believes Saints have the ability to bridge it.

“We are really happy with where we are right now, but I think we can do much better, and we have a lot of games still,” he said.

“We want to finish in the best position that we can, so I hope it will be the sixth place, for the Europa League.

“That would be an amazing place for us, and we can achieve it.”

The Croatian international does admit, however, that there is little room for error if the club are to realise his ambition.

“We need to win, we need to take every point, every possible point now, for the next games, but I think and I believe, like the others, so we can,” he said.

Lovren’s recovery, like that of his colleague Gastón Ramírez, who was also injured in the 2-2 league draw at Sunderland on January 18, has been quicker than anticipated.

Both were initially expected to be sidelined for between six and eight weeks, but have made it back well ahead of schedule.

“I’m feeling much better,” said Lovren. “I think the injury is behind me, after four weeks.

“It was a difficult time for me, because I was used to playing, but, ok, it happens in football and I think I am much stronger than before.

“I’m really happy, because I was thinking directly after the injury I would be back much sooner than they said.

“I think I have a good body, and the recovery was really going well, with the help of our medical staff.

“Of course, it was amazing to work with them, so thanks to them, and thanks to everybody who supported me in this difficult time. But it was also a good time to learn some things.”