Southampton players have only been back from their holidays for a week but already they face their first test of pre-season under Mark Hughes as they prepare to play last season’s Bundesliga runners-up Schalke in Kunshan in their first game of the Club Super Cup tournament on Thursday.
Hughes’ men have been in China on tour since Sunday, based in Kunshan where a squad of 29 players have been training as they look to get back to peak match fitness ahead of the new campaign, during which it is vital that the players succeed after the calamity of last term!
From what the Southampton media team have been releasing, it seems as though Hughes has got the players working hard and has laid out his expectations from the off, stating that the side must
“get back to being a top level, top-half side”.
It also seems that the players have been enjoying their stay out in China with Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse and Harrison Reed competing in a Chinese cooking competition judged by Ryan Bertrand!
Of course, pre-season games don’t tend to start this early, however, Mark Hughes explained that it is “a good test and one we’re looking forward to”. Hughes also went on to explain that the majority of his squad will feature for 45 minutes against the Bundesliga giants, who could have a number of key players for them feature.
Southampton’s first signing of the summer Stuart Armstrong is likely to feature in a Southampton shirt for the first time, albeit in a friendly game, as Hughes did reveal that most players will get 45 minutes. Of course, nothing should really be read into based on how much each player plays for as the match really is a way for the players to regain match fitness and sharpness.
What will be interesting though is to see how Southampton’s youngsters do as the likes of Alfie Jones, Jake Flannigan and Callum Slattery have all travelled and trained with the squad. Furthermore, personally, Yan Valery should be someone to look out for as he could end up Cedric’s back-up at right-back after the release of Jeremy Pied with a string of good performances.
It will also be the first time in a year that Jordy Clasie, Harrison Reed and Sam Gallagher have put on Southampton shirts after their respective loan moves last term.
The Royal Blues have had some players at the World Cup with their respective nations, however, the squad of players that have travelled to China is still very strong, albeit they may not be fit yet.
Goalkeeper Ralph Fahrmann, defender Naldo and new striker Mark Uth are examples of some of the players that shone in the Bundesliga last term and could be worth keeping an eye out for.
New Schalke Man In Action - Mark Uth
Like with Southampton, not a lot can be read into the Schalke side that shows up on Thursday as it is also the first match of their preparations for the new season which actually starts two weeks after Southampton’s as they travel to Wolfsburg in their opening game of the Bundesliga on the 25th of August.
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster
Defence: Yan Valery, Alfie Jones, Wesley Hoedt, Ryan Bertrand
Midfield: Nathan Redmond, Stuart Armstrong, Pierre Hojbjerg, Harrison Reed, Josh Sims
Striker: Manolo Gabbiadini
This is a completely random guess as there’s no way to really know for sure who starts the game, but of course, we do know that most players are likely to feature for 45 minutes. There are a few young players in this predicted side but I would expect most to feature in the second half so that we can start well by fielding a strong eleven.