By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Jonas Gutierrez believes Newcastle's training camp in Portugal will help prepare them for European and domestic football, both on and off the pitch.
United touched down in the Algarve on Thursday afternoon and wasted no time in heading out to the practice pitches just a few yards from their hotel, ahead of games against Olympiakos and SC Braga on Friday and Saturday.
They certainly worked up a sweat in their sun-drenched surroundings and Gutierrez feels that fixtures against the Greek and Portuguese outfits will serve the Magpies well after playing against German, French and Turkish teams in Germany earlier this month.
As well as that, though, Gutierrez believes the camp - the itinerary of which will allow the players some downtime in between matches and training sessions - will help to further foster the team spirit which served Alan Pardew's men so well last term.
"It's good for the group to get the weather and to enjoy these days when we have an afternoon off and can be all together," the Argentine told nufc.co.uk. "It's so important for the group because in the season, we have to be all together.
"The group is the most important thing. It's about the group and it's about the spirit. It was really important for us last year - we had a really strong team spirit and a lot of players who came in and did really well, so we have to keep going in that way."
The temperature is around 29 degrees in the Algarve but Gutierrez insists it's the perfect climate to prepare for the new campaign, which starts against Tottenham on Saturday, 18th August.
"It's not too hot, but it's nice weather," he said. "With this temperature, we can play properly - it's not like last year in the United States where it was too hot.
"Now it's a good temperature and I think we're going to train in the mornings or in the middle of the day, when the temperature is going to be okay.
"It's good that there's a bit of wind, because the heat seems less than it really is, and we have to enjoy this and be ready for the games that are going to be so important for the start of the season.
"Olympiakos and Braga are two teams that are big teams in their country. They normally play in Europe so they're good games for us to know where we are, where we can improve and the things that we have to change for next season."
"We have to keep going. We have three-and-a-half weeks until the start of the season so we have to keep going, try to improve and try to be better in fitness. That is the most important thing about pre-season."
There was a familiar face watching on from the sidelines as the team were put through their paces - former Magpies captain Nicky Butt, who dropped by while holidaying in the area.
And Gutierrez, who played alongside the former England international, beamed: "It was nice to see him, really nice.
"I was with him for two years and he was really important. As a player he was fantastic but more important is what he was like as a person.
"And I have a lot of memories of him as a person. He's a funny guy."