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Europa League Preview: Southampton vs Vitesse

Southampton make their return to European football after 12 years of waiting.

Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images

The day has come. Southampton make their first foray into European football for 12 years as they take on Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem later tonight. <!-- ######## START FLOATED VIDEO SNIPPET ######## -->

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Back in the 2003-2004 season, Gordon Strachan's Saints were knocked out by Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest in the first round of the UEFA Cup.

A player who has been instrumental in the South Coast club's rise to prominence, Southampton captain Jose Fonte has commented how big an occasion this is for both him and the club:

"It will be like a dream, so I'm looking forward to it.

"It is definitely one of the proudest moments in my career. I am extremely happy and want the game to come as soon as possible."

Southampton come into the game with good form against Dutch team, having had their pre-season tour in the Netherlands. The Saints scored 16 goals without reply in friendly wins over FC Groningen, Quick '20 and Feyenoord.

Vitesse have also recorded some wins over solid Europa League qualification-level opponents in Dundee United, Rizespor and Asteras Tripolis in their warm up to the Eredivisie season ahead.

Finishing fifth in the league last year, the Dutch club will not be cannon fodder for the Saints. Vitesse were the toughest possible draw for Southampton as they were the highest-ranked unseeded team Ronald Koeman's men could have faced.

Jay Rodriguez could make his first official return to football in a Southampton shirt since recovering from a ruptured ACL injury against Manchester City in 2014. New Saints signings Maarten Stekelenburg, Jordy Clasie, Cedric Soares, Juanmi and Cuco Martina could all make their competitive debuts for the club tonight.