JOZY Altidore is being pencilled in to start the season as an impact substitute.
Altidore is yet to participate in full training here in Portugal, as he makes his way back from the hamstring strain which brought a premature end to his participation at the World Cup.
The USA striker will not feature in tonight’s final friendly on the Algarve against Vitoria Setubal as he continues to catch up on the fitness levels of his team-mates after only joining the rest of the squad on the training field last week, following a period of extra time off in the summer.
Altidore is due to return to action in Sunderland’s final two pre-season warm-up games against Real Betis and Udinese next week.
But he is unlikely to be fully fit for the start of the Premier League campaign in a fortnight’s time, although Sunderland boss Gus Poyet believes he will be available from the bench.
Poyet said: “Jozy won’t play tonight. Next Thursday? Yes.
“The idea is to have him there for the start of the season.
“The last five or six games he played last season, he was outstanding when he came on for the last half hour.
“He gave us something which we really needed.
“If he needs to start the season like that, it’s not a problem.
“The idea is to get him ready for that half-an-hour at the beginning (of the season) and maybe he can play in the cup.
“He knows that. He’s well aware of everything with the internationals.”
Seb Larsson will be unavailable tonight after missing Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to CD Nacional after returning to the UK with his wife expecting a child.
Billy Jones is also a doubt to face the Portugese top flight outfit.
The Bosman signing played just 45 minutes against Nacional and did not participate in full training yesterday after receiving treatment throughout Sunderland’s stint in the Algarve.
But fellow new boy Patrick van Aanholt is expected to feature again, with Poyet pleased with how the £1.5million left-back has acclimatised to life at Sunderland.
“We’ve battered him with information,” added the head coach.
“I don’t think a player has ever got so much information in such a short space of time.
“I want him to get it as soon as possible and so far, he’s been spot on.”