Rodriguez signing close, but Sunderland must step up without him

Sunderland step up their pre-season programme in Albufeira this evening with the bulk of their summer rebuilding still to be done

Action Images / Carl Recine Uruguay's Cristian Rodriguez in action
Uruguay's Cristian Rodriguez in action

Sunderland step up their pre-season programme in Albufeira this evening with the bulk of their summer rebuilding still to be done.

With deals for Cristian Rodriguez and Fabio Borini still to be completed last night, Patrick van Aanholt is likely to be the only Black Cats debutant against Recreativo de Huelva in the first match of their three-game tour of Portugal.

Sunderland have been in the Algarve since Friday.

Although their pre-season campaign started almost a week earlier in the less glamorous surroundings of Bishop Auckland, this week should be the most important part of Gustavo Poyet’s preparations for the coming campaign.

But the extensive rebuilding programme the Uruguayan had in mind is not even halfway through yet.

Since the summer kicked off with the Bosman signings of Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon and Jordi Gomez, the only other new face sporting director Lee Congerton has been able to deliver is former Newcastle United loanee van Aarnholt.

Others will follow with a deal close on Atletico Madrid’s Rodriguez. A Uruguay ever-present in this summer’s World Cup, the left-sided or central midfielder has an impressive pedigree having also played for Paris Saint Germain, Porto and Benfica.

And despite suspicions of indifference from the Italian, the Black Cats are determined to persuade Borini he should make a £14m move from Liverpool. The logistics, with Sunderland in Portugal, Liverpool in the United States of America, and Borini nursing a dislocated shoulder in England, will only make it harder to tie up a deal for the 23-year-old before their return.

They remain in the market for a second left-back – Fiorentina’s Marcos Alonso, another loan signing from last season, tops that list – and are keen for further competition at centre-forward and central defence.

This summer could yet mirror the last one, where an early flood of signings were able to work with Paolo Di Canio in pre-season, but the second wave did not arrive until the campaign began.

Poyet plans to increase the matchday workload for his senior players during this trip, which includes matches against CD Nacional tomorrow and Vitoria Setubal on Saturday.

Having yet to feature in pre-season because of injury, Liam Bridcutt is expected to play in the first half tonight.

“Liam is coming along well and we are hoping he can play 45 minutes,” said the coach.

Bridcutt was signed from Poyet’s old club Brighton and Hove Albion in January to play the pivotal holding position in his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation.

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