Southampton move on from their first preseason friendly against Rasenballsport Leipzig into the final part of their tour of Austria as they compete in the Audi Quattro Cup this Saturday.
The weekend’s round robin features Bundesliga and La Liga giants in Werder Bremen and Valencia CF respectively, as well as hosts Red Bull Salzburg who are holding the tournament in their home stadium, Red Bull Arena.
Saints will face two 45 minute clashes, with Ronald Koeman facing his old side Valencia at 4:05pm BST before facing one of Salzburg or Bremen, depending on results. The two losers will face off for third place at 5:10pm, but if Saints were to taste victory over Los Ches, they will be in the final at 6:15pm.
To preview the tournament, we have asked three fans based in Germany, Austria and Spain to find out more about the three teams standing in Saints way of lifting the Audi Quattro Cup.
Considering Werder looked dangerously close to relegation to the 2.Bundesliga for the first time since 1981 whilst under Robin Dutt, Viktor Skrypnyk done remarkably in his first senior role to steady the ship and lead Die Werderaner to tenth. Having gone from being bottom with no wins by matchday nine, Skrypnyk's management skills will be certainly something to keep an eye on next season for fans of the Bundesliga.
To give us the lowdown on Werder, we asked Patrick and Bjorn of the Radio Free Weser Podcast. To their knowledge, they are the only English speaking podcast dedicated to the club... and they don't like Eljero Elia.
SMS: Last season saw Werder struggle until Viktor Skrypnyk was appointed as manager; what changed with the appointment of the Ukrainian, compared to the shocking start under Robin Dutt?
RFW: The greatest change many Werder fans saw was a difference in attitude. Robin Dutt was the type of manager where you got the sense that he wanted to be friends with his players, and was therefore too forgiving of mistakes made on the pitch and on the training ground. For whatever reason, the club seemed incapable of producing both a credible attack and decent defence during the same match. The lack of dynamic game plans, and inability to switch from one stance to another cost Werder Bremen time and again.
Viktor Skripnik is Green and White. Robin Dutt and his staff, despite making honest, valiant efforts to enmesh themselves in the fabric of Werder Bremen as a club, were always outsiders trying to assimilate. Its important to note that Werder Bremen have had 2 managers take up a vast majority of the last 35 years of club history. Skripnik has been part of the "Werder family" for nearly 20 years himself, and the coaching staff he set up, including the likes of Torsten Frings and Christian Vander, reflect that both he and his administration are thoroughly part of Werder's culture and identity. I know it can be difficult at time to impart how concepts of "club identity" and coaching attitude really reflect on the pitch, but perhaps this anecdote will illustrate my point:
During the first training session conducted by Skripnik and Frings, the player were pitted against one another in a drill in which one player was directed to dispossess the other of the ball. The catch? Methods that would otherwise deemed "outside the rules" were permitted...meaning that players were encouraged to have at each other and really FIGHT to maintain/win possession. Such an attitude of camaraderie through spirited competition did not exist under Robin Dutt...and the effects were certainly seen on the pitch.
SMS: Saints fans will remember Franco Di Santo (below) for poor spells in the Premier League at Wigan, Blackburn and Chelsea. He's now a goal machine at Werder; what have you guys done to him?!
RFW: I don't think its very controversial to say that DiSanto's move to Chelsea was too much, too soon for the young Argentine. The tumult and Chelsea, as well as being very low in the strikers' pecking order at Stamford Bridge made development difficult. Also, Wigan and Blackburn are not known for their attacking verve and prowess (well, in Blackburn's case not since Alan Shearer was with the club) so to criticize DiSanto for a lack of goal scoring at those clubs is to overlook what the strategy each of those clubs had going into matches against bigger sides.
Werder Bremen are known for attacking football (at least in the last 15 years), and, quite frankly DiSanto has better talent around him to help CREATE opportunities that he did not have while at Wigan or Blackburn. Right now he also has the benefit of being "the guy" for Werder... and let's face it, some strikers thrive on that situation.
SMS: It was a bit of a surprise to see your young starlet (and one-time Saints target) Davie Selke move to 2.Bundesliga money-bags, RB Leipzig. How disappointed are you to see him go?
RFW: It was certainly a disappointed to see such a highly hyped, supposedly generational talent, leave the club. In an ideal world, he would grow with the club and become a new component of the club's identity has strikers such as Voller, Rufer, Ailton, had before. That said... Werder got a wonderful return on investment in terms of transfer fees, so the blow was softened significantly.
Its just another example to German Football that RB Leipzig are coming...and in the years to come they will be a force to be considered in the Bundesliga, as they will be well funded, and likely well equipped.
SMS: Ahead of the new season, where do you think Werder will finish?
RFW: This season's objective should be qualification for the Europa League. (5th through to 8th place potentially). Werder have an array of young talents that have the potential of forming a solid core capable of battling it out consistently in the top echelon of the Bundesliga. A comparison to recent history would probably place Werder's current situation similar to that of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s several years ago. Through developing a core of solid squad players, BMG were able to cope and profit off the sales of their bigger talents (Marin, Reus, Dante) and form a squad capable of qualifying for the Champions League. Werder have the history, and they do perhaps have the talent...but the next great Werder generation is still in its nascent stages.
(Also...please buy Eljero Elia...we beg you.)
We thank Patrick and Bjorn for their time. You can follow the podcast on Twitter here, @RFWPod.