Southampton manager Ronald Koeman says tomorrow’s UEFA Europa League qualifier presents an occasion for everybody connected with the club to savour.
Saints take on Dutch side Vitesse in the first leg of the third qualifying round at St Mary’s on Thursday evening.
And boss Koeman says he and his players will embrace the challenge of reaching the group stage.
“It’s a great opportunity – for the club, for the players, for everybody,” he told youtube.com/southamptonfc.
“It’s a serious one because we’d like to reach the group stage, and we have to play for that.
“We knew that from the end of last season, and we’ve been looking forward – and now it’s close.
“It’s great for the fans to start [the season] with a qualification match for the Europa League. Last season the support was amazing, and we hope to bring the fans a good result tomorrow.
“We play at home so we have to play offensively, we have to score and we have to win – that’s our gameplan.
“We will enjoy it – I think that’s the most important thing – and we will do everything to qualify for the Europa League.
“The first home game is interesting – it’s sold out, and I think we are prepared for the game,” Koeman continued.
“We had a good week in Holland and we’ve had some good sessions this week in Southampton, so we are ready. The team is ready.
“The players came back in a good condition and we’ve worked hard to be close to 100%, and I think that’s enough.”
Vitesse arrived in Southampton on Wednesday afternoon and trained at St Mary’s later in the day.
And Koeman says he expects the Dutch outfit to contribute to a good footballing spectacle: “I think it will be a good game because they like to play football – that’s what we saw from Groningen and that’s what we saw from Feyenoord (both of whom Saints beat in pre-season).
“They give to space to play, and we have to show we have the ability. That’s maybe a little bit easier than an opponent that is defending and defending, and playing long balls.
“We have to be sharp because if you let them play football then they can show their qualities.”