Two more pre-season friendlies have been confirmed for Southampton as they step up preparations for the 2021/22 season.
Via a report from the Athletic yesterday, Saints will face Fulham this coming Saturday in a behind-closed-doors game. Saints then announced this morning that Athletic Bilbao would be the opponents in the home friendly set for Saturday 7th August – a week before the Premier League gets underway.
These two games are added to the pre-season schedule that already sees Saints travelling to Wales for a short training camp and two away fixtures against Cardiff City and Swansea City.
Given that there are just three weeks separating today’s date and the week of the 14th August where Saints will be building towards their Premier League clash with Everton, it remains to be seen whether any more pre-season matches will be squeezed into already tight plans.
Good tests for Southampton players as they look for optimum levels
Saints will be hoping to hit the same kind of form that they showed at the beginning of last season. A superb run of results saw them top the Premier League table in November 2020 and many fans were wondering just how far Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side could go.
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However, things tailed off and more consistency is needed this time around alongside better fortune with injuries.
The pre-season fixtures that have been lined up will certainly play a part in getting Saints up to speed.
Three Championship sides in Cardiff, Swansea and Fulham will be faced, but all three will be aiming to compete in the upper reaches of the division for a chance at promotion. All three players have Premier League quality on their books.
Athletic Bilbao are another step up given their consistency in the Spanish top-flight. Last season saw them reach two cup finals – one that they won – and finish 10th in the league.
A significant link between Saints and Bilbao can be seen in their shirt colours. As the story goes, as described by outsidewrite, Bilbao used to play in white or blue and white, but a student from the city made a trip to Southampton and picked up Saints shirts – the red and white striped design was then picked up by Athletic Bilbao and eventually Atletico Madrid.