Southampton kick off their pre-season campaign with a friendly at Swiss side FC St Gallen on Saturday afternoon.
Mauricio Pellegrino, on his first trip as Saints boss, has taken his men to Austria this week, and the match against St Gallen will conclude this training camp. After that, Saints travel to Championship side Brentford and then jet off to France, as their preparations for next season pick up speed.
Founded in 1879, St Gallen are the oldest side still in existence across Switzerland and mainland Europe. They ply their trade in the Swiss Super League, which they have conquered twice.
In the last decade, the club has been on a roller coaster ride. After suffering a large decline, they have been consigned to relegation twice. However in more recent times, they have been on an incredible surge which has seen them consolidate themselves in Switzerland’s top flight, and emerge as one of the nation’s stronger sides.
They play their home matches at the Kybunpark, formerly known as the AFG Arena, which has a capacity of 19,694, and is located in St Gallen itself. The ground has been used by the Swiss national team on a number of ocassions.
Last season, St Gallen finished 7th in the Swiss Super League, which consists of ten teams, ending on 41 points from 36 games.
Giorgio Contini’s side play some quite attractive football, which has obviously helped them on their rise back towards the top of the Swiss game.
Last season, their best player was probably Tranquillo Barnetta. The 32-year-old attacking midfielder has previously played for the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. He made 16 appearances last term.
Another player to look out for is Albian Ajeti, who plays a striker. The 20-year-old prospect scored 11 times last season in 30 appearances for St Gallen, and is currently on-loan from Bundesliga outfit FC Augsburg, who Saints host in their penultimate pre-season fixture.
Winger Yannis Tafer, 26, previously of Olympique Lyon, is another key player for St Gallen. The Algerian played 36 times last season, netting eight times. He has represented the French national team at every youth level, before switching his allegiance to Algeria, where he is yet to make an appearance on the international stage.
St Gallen’s major honours in the past have been winning the Swiss Super League (x2), the Swiss Cup (x1) and the Swiss League Cup (x1), as well as wining the Swiss Challenge League (2nd tier) on two occasions.