With just under two weeks to go until Southampton get their 2018/19 season underway with a home game against Burnley, they will conclude their pre-season preparations with two, what is now customary, friendlies at St.Mary’s, starting off with the visit of La Liga outfit Celta Vigo on Wednesday evening.
Mark Hughes’ men are fresh from a week-long training camp in Evian, France where the intensity of sessions increased as the new season gets closer! The players were also tested in a friendly to conclude the training camp against Ligue 1 side Dijon which they won 2-0 thanks to goals from Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini either side of half-time.
Before the camp, Southampton had begun preparations with a two week tour of China, drawing 3-3 with FC Schalke before beating Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning 3-2. The Saints then returned to Staplewood before unfortunately losing 3-0 to Frank Lampard’s Derby County at Pride Park.
The friendly with Celta Vigo will give new signings Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Angus Gunn and Jannik Vestergaard the chance to play in front of the St.Mary’s crowd for the first time as Southampton players. It will also allow Mark Hughes to give some game time to Cedric and Maya Yoshida who will be returning from prolonged holiday after their World Cup efforts. The fixture will also provide Saints with a high-intensity match as they look to step up another level ahead of what will hopefully be a much more successful Premier League campaign as opposed to the previous one.
As for the opposition, Celta Vigo finished 13th in La Liga last term for the second successive season but were competing in the Europa League the same season as Southampton. The Spanish outfit also have newly recruited loanee Sofiane Boufal in their ranks who could play against his parent club due to the fact that the match is a friendly.
Celta will also have Danish winger Pione Sisto in their side, a player who Southampton have been linked with for the past few transfer windows and someone who some Saints fans see as the ideal addition to make before the transfer window closes next Thursday.
It will be important that Mark Hughes names a strong starting line-up on both Wednesday and Saturday for the friendly against Borussia Monchengladbach as the season draws ever closer and first-choice players’ fitness must be close to if not already perfect. The Welshman must also give a good amount of minutes to the returning Cedric and Maya Yoshida who, despite competing in their last World Cup game less than a month ago, will need to boost their fitness levels if they are to feature against Burnley in the opening Premier League game.
In terms of head to head statistics, both Nathan Redmond and Manolo Gabbiadini have scored the most goals during pre-season so far (both with two) with Shane Long, Sam Gallagher, Harrison Reed and Jake Hesketh also finding the back of the net during their preparations.
Predicted starting XI:
Defenders: Cedric, Yoshida, Hoedt, Vestergaard, Bertrand
Midfielders: Lemina, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Elyounoussi