Sheffield United: No time for sightseeing in Reims
The tourist guides cite sampling the local champagne and a tour of its cathedral as 'must do's' on a visit to Reims.
With only a week to go until their new season begins with a trip to Premier League rivals Bournemouth, Sheffield United will resist the temptation to experience this city's sights and sounds following tomorrow's friendly against its football team.
"It's going to be a difficult test for us," manager Chris Wilder admitted, ahead of his team's visit to the Stade Auguste-Delaune. "But that's what we want because there's going to be lots more of them ahead."
In truth, despite acknowledging the importance of becoming battle-hardened, Wilder does not want the meeting with David Guion's side to be a particularly taxing affair. Rather than leaving England tonight, United have chartered a private jet to fly them in and out on the day of the fixture; a decision which grants them an extra 24 hours to prepare for next weekend's curtain-raiser in Dorset.
However, Wilder and his staff have identified a number of performance related targets they want their players to reach. After scoring nine times in their previous two warm-up fixtures - against Chesterfield and Barnsley - United have been challenged to become even more clinical in front of goal.
"That's something we've tidied up," Wilder, whose squad have also faced Real Betis, Burton Albion and Northampton Town since being promoted from the Championship last term. "And we've got to continue getting better at that, working on our shape and our system, because nothing (in the top-flight) is going to come easy."
"The good thing," he added. "Is that we know we're going to get pushed. Of all the teams we've faced so far - and genuinely they've got my respect - these (Reims) are probably going to be the pick of the bunch."
Both Wilder and Guion, a former defender for Lille, are grappling with selection dilemmas ahead of kick-off. Reims, or Stade de Reims to give them their official title, have recruited well since finishing eighth in Ligue 1 last season. Goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, a Serbia international, is among those to arrive while South Korea's Suk Hyun-jun is about to begin his second campaign with Les rouges et blancs.
"We've tried to step things up, in terms of who we've faced," Wilder, who could hand new record signing Oli McBurnie his United debut, said. "That's how you sharpen things up in my book, and that's the point of the exercise at this stage; to get fit, sharp and organised. You want everyone knowing what they're doing.
"Because we have quite a unique way of playing," Wilder added. "We want to give the new lads in particular as much time as possible to understand and get to grips with it."
Like United, who were still in League One when Wilder was appointed three years ago, Reims have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes following Guion’s arrival. After climbing out of the second tier, they beat Paris St Germain, Lyon and Marseille last season.