Mark Hughes has backed Ryan Bertrand to prove his quality against former club Chelsea as he attempts to force his way back into England contention.
Southampton defender Bertrand, who was left out of his country’s World Cup squad in the summer, was once again overlooked by national team boss Gareth Southgate for the forthcoming Nations League games against Croatia and Spain.
The 29-year-old faces a stern test at club level ahead of the international break with Maurizio Sarri’s unbeaten Blues due at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Bertrand spent a decade at Stamford Bridge, lifting the Champions League trophy in 2012, before being allowed to move to the south coast two years later.
He is expected to overcome a minor injury to play against the in-form west London club and Saints manager Hughes has urged him to relish the challenge.
“At the moment it doesn’t seem like he’s too close to position in the England squad so he will just keep working hard and hopefully his performances will do the talking for him,” said Hughes.
“It’s about testing yourself against the best that’s out there and Chelsea come within that area.
“He’s going to be up against quality players who will test him, like they will test every area of our game.
“He’s a good player, he’s got a history with Chelsea as well, he’s won the Champions League with them.
“It’s always that way when you face an old club of yours, you always have that little extra incentive to do well, to prove to people that you are still around and I’m sure Ryan will take that opportunity.”
Left-back Bertrand won the most recent of his 19 international caps in November last year.
England boss Southgate opted to take Tottenham’s Danny Rose and Manchester United’s Ashley Young to Russia ahead of him, while Luke Shaw has since returned to favour.
Hughes admits Bertrand’s failure to make the squad for the tournament was a blow for the player but feels he has swiftly put the setback behind him.
“Ryan’s just getting on with the business of working hard for us,” added Hughes.
“He was disappointed missing out on the World Cup, that was a big aim of his, but it’s not something he’s dwelling on. I think he’s moved on very, very quickly.
“I’ve no doubt that he’s very much still in the frame. But at the moment it seems like Gareth wants to promote younger players, and you can understand that, he’s been successful, had a great World Cup.
“If Ryan plays well – like any other player – you would expect him to still be in the thinking of the national team manager.
“He’s not closed the door on it himself, he just has to play well for us.”
Hughes should have a fully-fit squad to choose from as Saints go in search of just a second home league win since November last year.