Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Cardiff aim to improve defence in Austria

Cardiff City players open their Championship campaign away at Blackburn Rovers on 8 August
Cardiff City players open their Championship campaign away at Blackburn Rovers on 8 August

As the holiday makers lounge around the hotel pool - they have a perfect view of the Cardiff City squad toiling in the hot sun.

The baking temperatures in the Tyrol region of Austria, surely won't be replicated when Cardiff kick off their Championship campaign away to Blackburn Rovers on August 8.

Yet Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels the time spent there will be worth it ahead of his side's Football League return at Ewood Park.

"We've had two and a half weeks of really hard work and it's been about fitness. Now it's more about shape and finding a way of playing," said Solskjaer.

"We have drip fed things into them but have not focused on it.

"Now when we go onto the pitch we need to see more focus on the other part of football - the defending part - hopefully we will see an improvement on that."

Important time

Having arrived at a struggling Premier League club in January, Solskjaer realises just how important pre-season with his revamped squad will be.

Last season he tried to change the team's playing style in the heat of battle, taking over the reins following the sacking of Malky Mackay on December 27, 2013.

Now in the heart of the Alps - they are training at around the same altitude of Brecon Beacons landmark Penyfan, the highest point in south Wales at 886m (2,907ft) - Solskjaer is already gearing up for the mountainous task of climbing back into the top flight.

Cardiff City players being put through their paces at their pre-season training camp in Austria
Cardiff City players being put through their paces at their pre-season training camp in Austria

He has "planned" the season without some of his star players from last season. But he has put his own stamp on the squad in this transfer window drafting in Spanish striker Javi Guerra, Austrian midfielder Guido Burgstaller, Reading front runner Adam Le Fondre, former Manchester United player Federico Macheda and South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi.

Solskjaer is sure to prune his squad before the campaign begins. But for now he expects all players to strive to impress in pre-season.

"I think I have loads of quality in the squad, loads of players. Now it's about choosing whoever is going to feature the most," said Solskjaer.

"You have young players who want to get in the team, you have players who played last year, you have players who have been out on loan and done well.

"Now it's about finding the mix and getting the right 11 for the Blackburn game."

He added: "You are going to pick players on whoever is showing the best form and who is going to give is results in the early part of the season.

"And then as the season goes on you rotate, you rest players, put players in. That's a different matter. Now it's about getting a good start to the season."

Alpine base

Having flown into Munich Airport, Cardiff' travelled for an hour and a half, crossing the border into Austria to set up their base in the picture postcard village of Walchsee.

This is an all year round tourist hot spot. Sun seekers who love the scenic views of the forested Alpine peaks and the calm of nearby Lake Walchsee are here now.

Ski enthusiasts take over during the winter to make use of the surroundings slopes. There are 40km of winter walking paths, 25km of ski runs and 140km of cross-country skiing tracks.

Fellow residents at the Bluebirds' base are intrigued by the sight of professional footballers going through their paces nearby as they lounge around the hotel pool.

Others venture past the training ground in the shadow of the hotel as they embark on some picturesque Alpine walks or cycle rides.

Cardiff have beaten a well worn trail to a place which is used to coping with the demands of football clubs.

Because the hotel complex is divided by a main highway through the valley, there is an underground passageway to the players' living quarters.

The walls of the tunnel are festooned with pictures of sporting organisations and other football clubs who have stayed here.

The stays of Werder Bremen, Hearts, Steaua Bucharest, the Ukraine national team and Russian side Kuban Krasnodar - one of Swansea City's Europa League opponents in 2013/14 - are among those celebrated.

Should the Cardiff players need inspiration, they need look no further than the montage featuring World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger - who also visited their Austrian base a few years ago.

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger lifts the 2014 World Cup after his country's 1-0 win over Argentina

Detailed planning

More important for Cardiff City is the training facilities in the hotel grounds.

Pitch side hoses allow ice baths to be on hand for the players to do recovery work after sessions and Solskjaer is pleased with the set-up.

"We could have gone to Malaysia," he said, "but these are better preparations for when the league starts.

"You have five and a half weeks or so from when we started training to the first league game so we cannot afford to lose too many days in travelling."

There is still plenty of work to do and warm-up games to play before the kick off at Blackburn, but Solskjaer knows the ground work done, in what the Austrians call the lower Inn valley, will be crucial as he and his team embark on a season amid high expectations.

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