José Fonte believes qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League automatically can provide a massive boost ahead of the new Barclays Premier League season.
A number of Saints players, including Fonte, will be involved at this summer’s European Championships in France, meaning their recovery time could well have been heavily reduced if Ronald Koeman’s men had missed out on automatic qualification to the groups.
With last year’s disappointment against FC Midtjylland also in mind, Fonte says it’s a huge boost that Saints won’t have to start their European campaign before the Premier League gets under way.
“I think it’s massively important that we don’t have to go through the qualification rounds,” Fonte told saintsfc.co.uk.
“Otherwise the players involved in the European Championships wouldn’t get a lot of time off in the summer to recover.
“We wouldn’t have had time for holidays and that would have meant coming back in early for everyone.
“We can now have a little bit of time to rest and prepare much better for the new league season to ensure we start it fresh.”
And Fonte can’t wait for the opportunity to test himself on the European stage. “It’s a great chance for us to test ourselves against some very good teams,” the captain added.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good draw and we’re looking forward to coming up against the best teams. We can’t wait for it.”
One man that Fonte could come up against is his brother Rui, who lifted the Portuguese Cup with loan club Braga last weekend. “He’s a Benfica player and they were the champions in Portugal,” the defender added.
“He doesn’t know if he’s staying at Braga, but we spoke about it. We will see what happens, but if we do play each other then it would be really good.”