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Pelle set for Saints debut
Graziano Pelle will make his first appearance in a Saints shirt tonight, as the club conclude their pre-season trip to Belgium.
The striker, who followed Ronald Koeman from Feyenoord in a deal thought to be worth around £7m, joined up with the squad on their training camp this week and is set to be given 45 minutes against Sporting Hasselt tonight.
Pelle was in the stands for Tuesday’s match against EHC Hoensbroek, as Saints hopped over the border to beat the Dutch minnows 4-0.
The 29-year-old only linked up with his teammates on Monday night, but, having now had a few training sessions under his belt, he will see some action against this evening’s opponents, who play in the Belgian third division.
The 6ft 4in Italian has been signed as a replacement for Rickie Lambert and, after two sensational seasons in the Eredivisie, where he scored 50 goals in 57 league appearances, the forward will be hoping to make a fast start with his new club.
Lovren, Yoshida and Boruc were not yet ready for a match, having only just started their pre-season preparations, while Rodriguez is expected to be out injured until October.
Rodriguez will obviously not play tonight, but the other three may be used.
It will be particularly interesting to see the reaction of Lovren if he does feature, with the disenchanted defender still hoping for a summer move to Liverpool.
Saints boss Koeman wants to keep hold of the 25-year-old, who has been the subject of two failed bids from the Reds in recent weeks, but Lovren has already admitted he feels as though his head is at Anfield.
The Croatian international is Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ number-one defensive target, and it is expected that last season’s runners-up in the Premier League will make another attempt to sign him.
Tonight’s game, which kicks off at 6pm UK time, should also offer a second glimpse of summer signing Dusan Tadic.
The Serbian playmaker, who joined from FC Twente in an £11m deal, was handed a run out in the second half of Tuesday’s victory.
Koeman will also be keen to have another look at 19-year-old winger Sam McQueen, who scored the opener against Hoensbroek and set up Calum Chambers for the second, marking him out as the star of the show during his first-half appearance.
After tonight’s match, Saints will return home to begin the domestic part of their pre-season schedule.
They will travel to Swindon on Monday night and then Bournemouth on Friday evening next week.
Those games will be followed by a visit to Brighton, on Thursday, July 31, and the home fixture against Bayer Leverkusen, on Saturday, August 9.