Jay Rodriguez will tomorrow return to first team action at St Mary’s for the first time since March 2014.

The 26-year-old last started a game at St Mary’s as he scored twice in a 4-0 romp over Newcastle.

His next appearance for Saints, away to Manchester City, saw him sustain the knee injury that has sidelined him ever since.

Rodriguez was not included in the squad to face Vitesse on Thursday night with Ronald Koeman holding him back to start tomorrow’s friendly against Espanyol.

“In a short time we have different games and Jay is still not in the shape to play every three days,” said Koeman.

“He will start this Sunday because he needs but Thursday and Sunday is still too much and we have to think about that.”

Koeman will be paying close attention to Rodriguez’s progress when he faces the Spanish side, who were first visitors to St Mary’s when the stadium opened in 2001.

Even though fans are desperate to see the top scorer from the 2013/14 season back in regular action for the first team in competitive games, Koeman is still trying to ensure his comeback is not blighted by further problems.

However, the Saints boss has not entirely ruled out Rodriguez featuring in the return leg at Vitesse next Thursday night if everything goes well this weekend.

“It’s possible because he’s doing well, he’s not really like before but that’s normal because a long time out of competition football,” admitted Koeman.

“He needs time and he gets that time and Sunday he will start against Espanyol.”

Saints do have the strength in depth in Rodriguez’s position to allow him the time to make a proper comeback.

Graziano Pelle was on the scoresheet against Vitesse while Sadio Mane created two of the goals.

“It’s always important,” said Koeman of Pelle’s goal.

“Strikers living by scoring goals and it was the first chance he got and he scored a good goal.”

Speaking of Mane he added: “He was very dangerous behind Graziano, he had very good movement and the first two goals came out of assists of Sadio.

“He looks very sharp already after four weeks and he was outstanding.”