Steve Cotterill is ruing the absence of Jason Pearce from Pompey’s early-season programme.
The Blues boss has been highly impressed with the pre-season impact of the £300,000 capture from Bournemouth.
Although a central defender, Pearce also represents a left-back alternative to Hermann Hreidarsson.
That is the role he has occupied successfully several times during the Blues’ summer friendlies.
But Cotterill will not have the option of deploying the 23-year-old in that role in Saturday’s opener at Middlesbrough as he serves a three-match ban for being sent off in Bournemouth’s play-off semi-final loss against Huddersfield last season.
Pearce is also suspended for the Carling Cup clash with Barnet on Tuesday and the Fratton Park visit of Brighton (August 13).
It leaves Cotterill with just 14 available players, although Ryan Williams and Lewis Stockford could be added to the squad from the Academy.
And the Pompey manager believes Pearce’s absence is a blow.
Cotterill said: ‘It’s a real pity Jason is suspended. A real pity. I have been very impressed with him during the pre-season, so have the staff and probably even the older players.
‘He is a really good communicator, although we think there are things he needs to brush up on and tidy up.
‘But he is a real 100-per-center and it is great having such a young boy on board.
‘I believe, 100 per cent, that Jason will come through. He might take some time to adjust but he will come through.
‘He’s a proper man, a leader, a great kid, who has been everything Lee Bradbury and Steve Fletcher at Bournemouth told me he would be.
‘We are really pleased with him. He has fitted in so well.
‘All the new players have but he has fitted in well with the more experienced pros.
‘Jason’s a good leader, who pushes and pulls people into position as well and it’s a shame he’s suspended.’
Hreidarsson is likely to be entrusted with the left-back role for the trip to the Riverside. Joel Ward could also feature there but will be needed in midfield with the squad still light on numbers.
Cotterill believes Pearce is a challenger for that position when he is available.
He added: ‘Jason may be able to play at left-back.
‘He has been there a couple of times during friendlies and done very well.
‘With him not being available for the first three games, positionally, he has been somebody I have been able to toy about with a little.
‘If he plays at left-back he is going to get more heart and lung work than he would do playing as a left-sided centre half. But if at any time in the season we need him to drop in there at left-back, at least he has some comprehension of what is needed.’
Meanwhile, former Pompey keeper Jon Stewart has joined Burnley on a one-year deal.
The 22-year-old spent the 2008-09 campaign with the Blues and was at Bournemouth last season.