Egaleo preview

Thursday 18 July 2002

The squad has been spending the last week in a pre-season training camp ahead of the Intertoto Cup third round match against Egaleo FC of Greece.

After scraping through against FC Haka on the away goals rule, Jean Tigana will undoubtedly be looking for his side to recapture some the attacking sparkle that was evidently missing from the encounter in the previous round.

However, in a reversal of fortunes, Tigana could well find that his team will have the same advantage over Egaleo as FC Haka had over Fulham.

With the Greek season usually starting in September, the Whites should have the edge in terms of match fitness and general preparation.

Looking back over the pre-season to date, Tigana admitted that his preparations have been different to those of previous seasons.

"It's difficult to compare the side now to the same time last year. This season we're playing matches earlier so it's a different situation to manage."

The timing of the Intertoto competition has infringed of the recovery of some first team members. With Rufus Brevett still on the mend after his groin injury, another recent absentee, Edwin Van der Sar, is hoping to be fit for this weekend's match.

"During the close-season Van der Sar had an elbow operation," said Tigana. "I wanted to play him against Haka but his elbow wasn't ready, I hope to be able to play him in the next round."

The quality of opposition in last season's friendly matches demonstrated Tigana's desire to fully prepare the Whites for their first season in the Premiership. It is, therefore, easy to see why Tigana is happy with his side playing competitive football this early in the pre-season campaign.

"It's important for the players because many of them haven't played at a high level. I prefer to play games in the Intertoto Cup, this time last year we were playing friendlies. But now we are immediately involved in competitive football, which is good for the players.

"It was our first year at the top level last year. There is a big difference playing in Europe and you have to learn quickly. It's important that we qualify for the UEFA Cup because we have many young players who will gain good experience."