Sunderland have been dealt a tricky hand when it comes to the Barclays Premier League opening two fixtures, with first Liverpool then Newcastle lying in wait.
Preparations for Steve Bruce's side have hardly been ideal of late, with defensive frailties exposed during a tour of Germany swiftly followed by a defeat at the hands of Npower Championship outfit Burnley.
Bruce has, though, reacted by by splitting his squad in two for the remaining games against Hartlepool and Darlington, so providing as many players as possible with more minutes on the pitch as the new season approaches.
This, says Sunderland midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady, will be a great benefit to him and the rest of his teammates, and ensure the Black Cats are ready to pounce come August 13.
"It’s all about fitness and with two (pre-season) games left, I think we’re ready," he told The Journal.
“The fitness is okay and we have two weeks left. We have two friendly games left and everything is running smoothly. We should be fine for Liverpool.”
He added: “It will be a very difficult start to the season – Liverpool away and Newcastle at home. I’m really looking forward to it.
“It was still an important game for us. We played a friendly game because we needed to get our fitness right for Liverpool on the opening day of the season. I think we’re ready now and we have two games left.
“I feel much better this year because I didn’t really have a proper pre-season last year. I feel much fitter.”