GUSTAVO POYET has identified this month’s trip to the Algarve as a crucial part of Sunderland’s pre-season preparations.

The Black Cats kick off their pre-season programme with domestic friendlies against Darlington, Carlisle United and Hartlepool United, with Poyet looking forward to seeing his players back in action.

However, the Uruguayan expects things to crank up significantly when he takes his squad to Portugal in the second half of the month, with three overseas warm-up games expected to play a pivotal role in developing next season’s preferred tactical approach.

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Sunderland have arranged three matches in Albufeira, with Recreativo de Huelva, CD Nacional and Vitoria Setubal providing the opposition between July 29 and August 2.

“It’s important, especially for me,” said Poyet. “At the start, it’s a mix between the fitness and the football, and there is a time – the one we’re going to spend in Portugal – which is tactically fundamental.

“For me, those nine games – three games and probably 14 or 15 training sessions – are the key.”

Poyet pushed to be based in Portugal from an early stage of pre-season planning, and cites the guaranteed climate as a key factor in his desire to spend time outside the North-East.

“I’ve been on pre-season in England during one of the hottest summers ever, where we couldn’t even train at two in the afternoon,” he said. “Then I had one of the wettest summers ever in England where we couldn’t train because of how wet it was.

“The idea of going to Portugal is to be 100 per cent sure that you have all the sessions in a calm environment. The players are together and have time to talk and spend time to know each other, to make a good group and be ready for the season. It’s a key part of the preparation.”