CHERRIES manager Eddie Howe has expressed his delight at the prospect of his players pitting their wits against Premier League opposition during pre-season.

Howe’s charges report back on Saturday to start preparing for the new campaign, with their warm-up friendlies including visits from Southampton and Swansea City.

New boss Ronald Koeman will take charge of Saints at Dean Court on Friday, July 25 before Garry Monk’s Swans head to Dorset on Friday, August 1.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “It is always difficult to get Premier League opposition during pre-season because a lot of clubs go away to Europe and farther afield.

“The fact we have two really good Premier League clubs coming down is due in part to how we play, which is a really good sign and both games will be really good tests for the players.”

Cherries kick-off their pre-season friendlies against Danish outfit FC Copenhagen, the clash on Friday, July 11 coming at the end of a five-day training camp in south east Austria.

Howe’s squad are due to fly out on July 7 and will face Copenhagen at the Vulkanlandarena – a venue which is approximately 50km from the city of Graz – after being put through their paces at a base in Bad Waltersdorf.

A first-team squad will travel to Salisbury on Tuesday, July 15 and Dorchester on Saturday, July 19 with a trip to Portsmouth on Tuesday, July 29 sandwiched between the Saints and Swansea games. Cherries complete their schedule with a visit to Oxford United on Saturday, August 2 before heading to Huddersfield for their Championship curtain-raiser on August 9.

Howe added: “We are very pleased and I think we have a really good structure to our programme of friendlies, starting with Copenhagen which will be a really difficult game against a very good team.

“We have some good tests locally against opposition which the lads should enjoy playing and then the Premier League games.

“Hopefully there is enough there for all the lads to get minutes under their belts. The most important things are that we go into the season confident and the lads feel fit.”

Cherries’ pre-season friendlies: Friday, July 11 – FC Copenhagen (a, 7pm), Tuesday, July 15 – Salisbury (a, 7.45pm), Saturday, July 19 – Dorchester (a, 3pm), Friday, July 25 – Southampton (h, 3pm), Tuesday, July 29 – Portsmouth (a, 7.45pm), Friday, August 1 – Swansea (h, 3pm), Saturday, August 2 – Oxford United (a, 3pm).