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Primed for action

Pre-season opener in Salzburg

As his new charges prepare for their first pre-season friendly, Louis van Gaal rounded off Thursday training with a game of eleven-a-side. Germany’s most successful club travel to face Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg on Friday evening in the 2009 Red Bull Cup. “I hope we see a little bit of what we’ve practised in training this week,” Van Gaal commented, “but it’s still too early to expect very much.”

The Dutch supremo, whose first game in charge at FCB sees him cross swords with fellow countryman and Salzburg coach Huub Stevens, has now held sway in Munich for nine days. The squad has trained hard so far. “There are aches and pains, of course,” reported Andreas Görlitz, “we’re almost always working with the ball, but it’s still hard going. We’re building up stamina at the same time.”

Full house in Salzburg

Apart from fitness training, Van Gaal has focused on introducing his men to a tactical system “which best suits the qualities of the individual players,” he explained. The coach has favoured a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond, playing a fast and accurate passing game and pushing up when not in possession.

“It’s already looking very good,” said Mark van Bommel, grateful for Friday’s first true test. “You always look forward to getting back to playing. It’s just a shame it’s on artificial turf.” A 32,000 crowd will fill the Red Bull Arena to capacity and set a new attendance record in Salzburg, where the freshly-installed artificial surface will be used for the first time.