Meet United's two pre-season opponents for this summer's tour...
Pre-season plans are starting to take shape and it was confirmed last week that Leeds will travel to Austria to face Spanish giants Athletic Bilbao and then Norway to take on German outfit Hoffenheim.
The club has never previously faced either side in a competitive fixture so we decided to take a closer look at the opposition awaiting us during this summer's tour. Full details of our confirmed pre-season plans can be found by clicking here.
What Uwe said:
“It will be a good trip against two top teams. I will spend a lot of time with the players on and off the training pitch to lay the foundations technically and tactically.”
Where? Austria, venue TBA
When? Tuesday July 21, kick-off time TBA
League: La Liga - 7th place 2014/15
Manager: Ernesto Valverde
2014/15 top scorer: Aritz Aduriz (24)
Was last season a success?
They may have finished three places below 2013/14’s impressive fourth-place finish, but Bilbao played considerably more games this time around. They began in the Champions League but exited the competition at the group stages and entered the Europa League. They also reached the Copa Del Rey final, in which they were beaten 3-1 by Barcelona, meaning finishing seventh could be regarded as a decent achievement after a long slog of a season. It was also their first year without star midfielder Ander Herrera, who was convinced into joining a team from Salford last summer.
Aritz Aduriz - The experienced striker ended last season with 24 goals to his name from 46 appearances in all competitions. At the age of 34, Aduriz is in his third spell at Bilbao having had previous stints with Valladolid, Mallorca and Valencia. The Spaniard’s contract is up this summer but Bilbao may be tempted into extending his stay following the most prolific campaign of his career.
Xabi Etxeita - The Spanish centre-back, along with goalkeeper Iago Herrerin, recently signed a new deal at San Mames and the club reportedly implemented a buy-out clause of 40 million Euros into his contract. Etxeita, who joined from Elche in 2013, featured 34 times in all competitions last season and started at the heart of Bilbao’s defence for the recent Copa Del Rey final defeat to Barcelona.
Iker Muniain - The 22-year-old attacking midfielder once dubbed “the Spanish Messi” missed the closing months of the season due to an ACL injury. Muniain, who is fully capped by Spain, is a product of Bilbao’s esteemed youth system and became the club’s youngest ever player aged 16 years, seven months and 11 days back in 2009. He already has over 200 first-team appearances to his name and Bilbao will be hoping to have him back in action sooner rather than later, even if the Leeds friendly looks to have come too quick.
Did you know?
Alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona, Bilbao are one of only three clubs never to have been relegated from La Liga.
Follow Athletic Bilbao on Twitter: @AthleticClub
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
What Uwe said:
“They are one of the most exciting teams with the way they play in the Bundesliga. They are a very tough team to play against and are also in Oslo for 10 days."
Where? Arasen Stadion, Lillestrom, Norway
When? Saturday July 25, kick-off time TBA
League: Bundesliga - 8th place 2014/15
Manager: Markus Gisdol
2014/15 top scorer: Kevin Volland (10)
Was last season a success?
Yes and no. They managed to finish a spot higher than 2013/14’s impressive ninth place, but Markus Gisdol's side ultimately missed out on their goal of European football. Just two points separated themselves and Schalke, who claimed a Europa League qualifying berth at their expense after clinching seventh. Hoffenheim made a flying start to their Bundesliga campaign, though, remaining unbeaten for the first nine league games of another season of progression.
Roberto Firmino - The Brazilian attacking midfielder has been linked with several big-money moves to English football after hitting eight goals in 35 appearances last season. At just 23, Firmino’s best years are still ahead of him, but Hoffenheim have a major job in keeping him at the club with Europe’s vultures already circling. Capped four times by Brazil and with over 200 domestic appearances under his belt, the name Roberto Firmino is one to keep a close eye on.
Kevin Volland - The 22-year-old winger is another promising, attack-minded player who has been making waves at Hoffenheim in recent years. Volland finished as the club’s top scorer last season with 10 goals to his name from 35 appearances and earned international recognition with Germany along the way. Inevitably, Volland had been linked with a summer departure, but the former 1860 Munich man signed a new four-year deal in May, much to the relief of the Hoffenheim fans.
Andreas Beck - A more experienced head in the Hoffenheim side, captain Andreas Beck featured 35 times last season and has been a regular fixture since his arrival from Stuttgart back in 2008. The right-back is previously capped by Germany was included in their 30-man preliminary squad for the 2010 World Cup. He has captained Hoffenheim since 2011.
Did you know?
Hoffenheim may have European ambitions right now, but back in 2000 they were a fifth division side in Germany and remarkably climbed through the leagues to reach the top-flight in 2008.
Follow Hoffenheim on Twitter: @achtzehn99
Keep an eye on leedsunited.com over the coming weeks for further pre-season announcements.