CLAUDE Puel is eager to ease club record signing Sofiane Boufal carefully into his Saints side, but plans to name on the bench against Burnley at St Mary’s tomorrow to help him acclimatise to life in the Premier League.

Puel is keen not rush the Moroccan international into the side as he continues to build up his fitness and works on relationships with his new team-mates. 

Boufal was signed from Lille in a record breaking £16m deal in the summer transfer window, but is yet to make his debut because he’s been recovering from a knee injury he picked up in May while still playing in France.

The attacking midfielder has been in full training over the international break and is working to towards match fitness, although Puel is eager to ease him into the Saints side after five months out.

The 23-year-old is expected to appear on the Saints bench against Burnley tomorrow, but is not ready to start.

“Boufal has come back to training last week,” he said. “He’s improved every time but I think at the moment it is too early to see him play.

“But he’s improving very well. The knee is staying in good shape and I hope we can find Sofiane for the next game perhaps on the bench and step by step progress with the squad.”

The St Mary’s chief knows that Boufal must carefully build up his fitness.

“Sofiane is a good player with possibilities to make the difference with a good dribble,” he said. “It’s interesting to see him in the training sessions.

“But just now it’s important to be among the team to get strong for the games.

“It’s important step by step to improve in his physical level and he will be an important player for the future.”

Striker Jay Rodriguez is also ready to return to action after a groin injury that kept him out for three weeks.

“Jay came back two weeks ago with the squad,” said Puel. “I think he can perhaps be with the group tomorrow.”