Martin Hunter says Southampton's youngsters can gain invaluable experience when they visit League One leaders Peterborough United in the Checkatrade Trophy tonight.
Saints, who were invited to take one of 16 spots for under-21 sides in the competition, begin their group-stage campaign this evening when they visit the ABAX Stadium to take on Grant McCann's high-flying team.
Peterborough have won their opening four matches of the season to claim top spot in League One, and Technical Director Hunter believes that, while an extremely difficult test awaits, it will be one the Southampton players can benefit greatly from.
"It will be extremely tough," he said. "They've obviously made a great start to the season, we're playing away from home and it will be a young team, so in terms of a test it will be a great one for them.
"Pitting their wits against a men's team will be difficult, so we'll see how they match up.
"They need to cope with the pace and power. They'll need to cope with the ball moving about more than they would be used to, and their decision-making will have to be spot on, otherwise they'll be punished, so for their development it's important, but we know what a big test it will be."
This is the second season in succession that Saints have been able to field a young side in the competition, having reached the knockout rounds last term.
This time, they will face three away games in the group, with trips to Cambridge United and Northampton Town to follow this evening's clash.
"It was terrific last season," said Hunter. "Some of our Under-23 players got great benefit from it, so we're hopeful of the same this year.
"This season we've got three away games, so you're playing at league grounds in front of a crowd, so it's a great test, and a great way for them to learn and to get another rung up the ladder."