NEW Saints signing Dean Richards will be out to make up for lost time when he makes his Saints debut against Lierse tonight.

The big central defender completed his Bosman free transfer from Wolves too late to be included in the club's pre-season tour of Norway and stayed behind to work on his fitness.

He turned in a sound display in a 5-0 win for the reserves at Salisbury and now he is ready for his first outing with the first-team in front of around 10,000 fans at The Dell.

Richards will partner Claus Lundekvam in the heart of the back four against the Belgian Cup winners and then at Reading on Saturday to prepare for the big kick-off at Coventry on August 7.

He said: "There are only two friendlies left now so I will have to make the most of them.

"It was a bit harder than it might have been with the lads being away when I came in. I did not even meet them until last Friday but they made me really welcome.

"But it will be good to get going and to get used to the way they play. It is important to start building up a rapport with Claus and all the senior lads so we can get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses."

Richards may not be the only new face in the Saints defence tonight.

Manager Dave Jones is toying with the idea of throwing in new Portuguese centre-back Marco Almeida who has impressed in his two outings so far for the reserves.

Richards and Lundekvam will start the match against the Belgian Cup winners but Jones will not hesitate to use the 22-year-old signed last week on a year's loan from Sporting Lisbon.

He said: "I won't decide the team until this evening but I might give Marco a brief run-out. I have been quite impressed by him.

"He is quick, he reads the game well and he is good in the air. He has got everything really and now we have to see how he adapts to the English game."

Almeida has played for the Portuguese national side at every age level up to and including the Under-21 side and he would dearly love to com-plete the set by going through to the full national team.

He said: "That is my dream but I have a lot to learn first. I think coming to Southampton can help me with both. They can improve my game and if I can break into the first-team it might help me get into the national side as they show a lot of English football on television in Portugal."

"I have settled in very quickly here. Of course it has helped having two other Portuguese players at the club."

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