Leeds United’s pre-season trip to Austria and Norway will see them move from conditioning to tactical work against useful opponents Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim. Phil Hay reports.
The first two weeks of Uwe Rosler’s pre-season plan dwelt solely on fitness.
The German was happy to admit that Leeds United’s players would not enjoy the slog.
In Austria and Norway, Rosler’s interest is entirely in football; in tactics, formations and the technical aspects of how he wants Leeds to play next season.
It is no coincidence that as his own focus changes, the standard of the club’s opposition does too.
United were at risk of being left without a meaningful friendly tomorrow after a game against Athletic Bilbao fell foul of Bilbao’s involvement in the Europa League but a meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt in Salzburg will give Rosler what he wants – an examination by a side who should in theory be better than his.
Frankfurt’s league season starts a week after the first weekend of the Championship term but like Leeds, their time in Austria is the second phase of their summer training programme.
The Bundesliga club – ninth in their division last season –lost 2-1 to Heidenheim on Saturday and will play Fulham after their game with United.
German football clubs, as Rosler knows, are sticklers for fitness and United are playing two of them this week.
On Friday, the squad fly to Norway to play Hoffenheim in Lillestrom, another side who finished the 2014-15 season inside the Bundesliga’s top 10.
Rosler’s intention was that Leeds’ tour of Austria and Norway would be used as advanced preparation for the start of the season, rather than a means of running his players ragged.
“There’s two options,” he said. “You can go away for a conditioning camp early on or you can go for a playing camp just before the season starts.
“I wanted to go and meet two very strong opponents, to expose ourselves against teams where we have to run a lot, chase a lot. German teams are normally very fit. It’s a great challenge to measure against top opponents.”
The quality of the opposition – including Everton who will visit to Elland Road on August 1 – mattered more to Rosler than the number of games he could squeeze into the summer.
Leeds will play only five senior friendlies before the season begins and United’s head coach instigated a rapid rise intensity at York City on Wednesday, pushing seven players through 90 minutes of a 1-1 draw on only their second appearance. Others did the same during a second-string match at Tadcaster Albion that same night.
A total of 25 players flew with Rosler to Munich on Saturday, a squad which showed two notable omissions. Adam Drury, the 21-year-old who Leeds took on trial from Manchester City recently, failed to make the tour and forward Nicky Ajose also remained in England. Chris Wood was fit to travel, despite the tight hamstring which kept him out of the draw at York, and he is likely to start against Frankfurt tomorrow.
United’s secluded training camp is based in the west of Austria, on the border with Germany and a short distance from the village of Kossen. All of United’s six new signings are present and midfielder Tom Adeyemi will make his first Leeds appearance this week. The 23-year-old missed Wednesday’s game against York as Rosler looked to build up his fitness after recruiting him on loan from Cardiff City.
Leeds’ work in the transfer market is almost complete and a left winger is the missing piece that Rosler and owner Massimo Cellino hope to find before the season starts on August 8.
“By this stage we were hoping to have most of our recruitment done,” Rosler said. “That gives you a chance (on tour) for coaches and players to get to know each other. You have time to talk and to get things across but also to have some off-field activities. We will have one or two.”
The venue for tomorrow’s game, Sportzentrum Eugendorf, holds around 1,000 supporters and Leeds expect two or three hundred of their fans to attend. A much bigger crowd will be seen at the friendly against Hoffenheim in Lillestrom, helped by United’s large Scandinavian following.
“Lillestrom is in my heart,” Rosler said. “It’s the club where I finished my career as a player and started my career as a coach. It’s a fantastic opportunity, along with the fact that Leeds have a big following in Norway.
“It’s so much fun when you go on a training camp and you have such a strong following.
“Every game means something for us because we want to give something back.
“The supporters spend a lot of money, they give their holiday away to follow the team and it’s our duty to give what we can.”