IN FOCUS: Vitesse

By SFC Media time Tue 28 Jul Club

Ahead of Thursday’s Europa League third qualifying round clash with Vitesse, provides the lowdown on Ronald Koeman’s former club.

Vitesse will be the first Dutch side Saints have faced in European competition. The Arnhem-based club will be playing their first Europa League match since 2013 when they come up against Koeman’s men at St Mary’s on Thursday evening. 

On that occasion, they were knocked out at the third qualifying round stage by Romanian side Petrolul Ploiesti, losing 3-2 on aggregate. They were also knocked out at the same stage the year previous, suffering a 4-0 aggregate defeat to Anzhi Makhachkala.

The Dutch side have twice reached the last eight of the competition, losing 4-1 to Sporting CP during the 1990/91 season and Real Madrid two years later.

Their best-ever Eredivisie finish came five seasons after that defeat to Madrid, finishing third, before a fourth-placed finish the following campaign.

Midway through the 1999/2000 campaign, current Saints boss Koeman arrived to take up his first management role, helping the club maintain fourth spot in the division.

Under Koeman, Vitesse reached the second round of the UEFA Cup before suffering an away-goals defeat to Italian giants Inter Milan. They then finished sixth in the Dutchman’s second season in charge.

Koeman is not the only former Vitesse manager with connections to Saints. Edgar Chadwick, who played for Southampton between 1900 and 1902, was the Dutch side’s boss in 1914.

Chadwick helped them finish runners-up in the Netherlands Football League Championship in 1914/15, only the fifth time the club had ever finished so high.

The English connection continues at Vitesse to this day thanks to their affiliation with Premier League champions Chelsea. The club currently has four players on loan from Stamford Bridge – Isaiah Brown, Nathan, Lewis Baker and Danilo Pantić.

Brown featured for Chelsea’s Under-21s against Saints’ Under-21s last season, scoring in the Londoners’ 5-3 victory at Stamford Bridge. Nathan and Pantić both joined José Mourinho’s side this summer, before being sent straight out on loan to Holland.

Last season, it was striker Bertrand Traoré, on loan from Chelsea, who helped fire Vitesse to the Europa League. The Burkina Faso international scored 14 Eredivisie goals to help Peter Bosz’s side to a fifth-placed finish.

After a 3-2 play-off semi-final aggregate win against PEC Zwolle, in which Traoré scored the all-important goal, Vitesse took on SC Heerenveen in the two-legged final.

A 2-2 draw in the first leg away from home was followed by a convincing 5-2 win at the GelreDome to ensure Vitesse of European football for the third time in four seasons.

Four of the scorers in that 5-2 win have since moved on, however. Marko Vejinović and Jan-Arie van der Heijden have both joined Feyenoord, while Davy Propper has moved to PSV and Zakaria Labyad has returned to Sporting CP after spending the 2014/15 campaign on loan at Vitesse.

As well as the four Chelsea youngsters, Sheran Yeini, Milot Rashica and Maikel van der Werff have joined the club this summer.

Van der Werff grabbed his first goal for the club in their 1-0 pre-season win against Çaykur Rizespor, while Rashica bagged two and Brown the other as they ended their friendly schedule with a 3-2 win against Asteras Tripoli. 

The game against Saints will be their first competitive fixture of the campaign. They will then face Willem II in their Eredivisie opener before the second leg at the GelreDome on Thursday 6th August.

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