CLAUDE Puel plans to give right-back Jeremy Pied a chance to play before the end of the season.
The Frenchman, who arrived at Saints from Nice on a free transfer last summer, has been out for seven months with a serious knee injury.
The 28-year-old has appeared on the bench in Saints' last two games, but is yet to come on.
However, Pied got some much-needed playing time under his belt this week, appearing for an hour of Saints under-23s' 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
"He played very well with the under-23s and it was interesting to see him," Puel said.
"He came back in the training with a good, strong attitude and it’s fantastic to see him after six or seven months at this level.
"He came back very well and congratulations to all the medical staff, they worked very well with him and it’s impressive to see him with hunger to want to play.
"He’s quick, fast and technical. He has a very good attitude and spirit and he will be important for the squad."
Pied was brought through the Lyon academy by Puel, before the 55-year-old signed him up at Nice and then Saints.
He's played just 11 minutes for Saints so far, coming on as a second-half substitute against Watford all the way back in August.
Twelve days after that, Pied suffered the horror injury in training and has spent the majority of the season recovering after surgery.
But Saints are now facing a hectic end to the season, with eight games rammed into five weeks, and Pied could get a chance.
That period will include four games in the final two weeks of the campaign, with the postponed Arsenal and Manchester United matches rearranged for May 10 and 17 respectively.
That busy period will likely allow Pied and other squad players to get some minutes.
"We have different possibilities and many games, so it will be important to play every time with all the players and consider the possibilities and who is physically fit," Puel said.
"It will be important to get a good results and maintain consistency [in that period]."
He added: "We’ve got to play many games in a short period of time with the two games postponed.
"For example we’ve got to play every three days in the last month of season and it’s important to keep all the squad ready with a good attitude and good spirit.
"You can see this with the suspension of Oriol [Romeu] or different injuries to important players, like Austin, Van Dijk, Targett that it's important to have a good squad and keep them in a good focus.
"It’s always difficult for example like when we had one game in two weeks.
"It was hard to keep the squad happy with a good attitude, but all this without games the players keep a professional attitude and they work very hard to show their quality to try to change opinion. This is important because it’s a competition between themselves."