Claude Puel: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is the future of Southampton
Claude Puel has described Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as representing Southampton's "future" after revealing club insiders spoke about the midfielder with his mentor Pep Guardiola.
Hojbjerg could start for Southampton against his former manager Guardiola's Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League fixture, facing him for the second time since they both came to England.
Their presence here comes after Guardiola managed him at Bayern Munich, where he felt the Dane could become a midfielder of the highest calibre, and where he dedicated significant time towards nurturing his talent.
The competition provided by Philip Lahm, Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso, Bastian Schweinsteiger and others ultimately prevented him from becoming a regular starter at Bayern.
He then in the summer he joined Southampton for B#12.8million, shortly after Guardiola's arrival at City, and has shown in flashes of the ability that caught the Spaniard's eye and which Puel believes will become central to his team.
"Guardiola likes good, technical players, and Pierre's a technical player, intelligent, and there's a good feeling with this player, it's important to have this profile on his team," said the Southampton manager.
"I like this profile also: for me it's the future for Southampton.
"Of course (he'll become an important player for Southampton). It's a young player, 21. It's very, very young. We forget that he's just this age.
"It's important he continues to improve, develop, and make progress. It's interesting for his first season in the Premier League, with what he can do since the beginning of the season.
"(After October's 1-1 draw at City) the directors spoke with Guardiola about Pierre. Just about the quality of Pierre."
Puel again has Manolo Gabbiadini and Steven Davis available for selection, leaving Virgl van Dijk and Charlie Austin as his only major absentees.
Martin Caceres - one of Guardiola's first signings as a manager when he took over at Barcelona - is again expected to be on the substitute's bench, and Jordy Clasie could retain his place after scoring in last week's 1-0 win at West Brom.
Guardiola, meanwhile, has warned his Manchester City side to expect a stern examination of their Champions League credentials against the Saints.
City ended a run of four games without a win by claiming three important points in the battle for the top-four positions with a routine victory over Hull last weekend.
But Guardiola's side still have some work to do to secure a place in Europe's top club competition next season, and the City boss is wary of the threat of Saints.
The south coast club reached the EFL Cup final this season and are on course for a top-half finish. Puel's side also took a point off City with a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium in a game remembered for a costly error by John Stones in October.
Guardiola said: "I think Southampton are making an exceptional season.
"They have, of course, a good manager and exceptional players in all positions. They have very good midfielders, all the strikers are so fast, they play the wingers inside - and all of them have good quality. The full-backs are guys who go up and down.
"They are a really, really good team. I was really impressed when they came here at the beginning of the season.
"Of course in that moment we came back from Barcelona, had played a lot of games in that period and we were tired.
"But of course they are a good team. It's a really good test for us."
City go into the game fourth in the table, four points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United. Their neighbours, however, have a game in hand and the two sides are still to play each other.
Guardiola has said he will decide on the day whether to play Claudio Bravo or Willy Caballero in goal.
Captain Vincent Kompany is in contention after being left out against Hull as a precaution following his long-awaited return to the side in the previous game at Chelsea.