Mark Hughes is willing to risk throwing Cedric Soares straight into the heat of Premier League battle despite the right back having no pre-season minutes under his belt.

The Portuguese international was due to return to the club last week following a post-World Cup summer break, but had to postpone due to a bout of gastroenteritis.

He is now expected back at Staplewood to begin training today just five days before Saints begin their new season against Burnley at St Mary’s.

Hughes admits it is not a risk he would take with many players, but he believes Cedric’s fitness will be at a level where he can be used.

He said: “I think if it was anybody other than Cedric in terms of fitness and worrying whether he could hit the ground running. Cedric is the one guy we wouldn’t worry too much about because he is a fitness guy who loves playing football and loves keeping himself in first class condition.

“The fact he’s been off all he’s missed is game time.

“If he has to go in straightaway and I feel that is the right thing for the team then that’s what I will do.”

Hughes would ideally like to get Cedric in the team due to the lack of front line alternatives in that role.

Matt Targett is the most likely player to slot into the right wing back position should Cedric require more time to prepare having been the best of what Saints have tried there during pre-season.

James Ward-Prowse, Harrison Reed and Sam McQueen have also figured in that position to varying degrees of success.

It means Saints have options, which has encouraged them to avoid dipping into the transfer market to sign a back-up, but clearly Cedric is the first choice and the club hope he will play the majority of games over the course of the season.