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WREXHAM haven’t featured in the European football competitions for more than 20 years but James Jennings reckons their pre-season matches in Portugal are the next best thing.

The Reds, who reached the European Cup Winners Cup quarter-finals in 1976 and produced one of Europe’s biggest shocks when they beat Porto in 1984 are in the Algarve for their annual pre-season training camp.

Tonight they face the Portuguese top-flight side Portimonense SC at the Estádio Municipal de Portimão and Jennings is relishing facing a team that ply their trade at such a high level.

Portimonense beat the likes of Benfica last season en route to finishing 12th in the division and the Reds’ left back is not expecting an easy ride.

“It is going to be difficult,” said Jennings. “It will be good for fitness and good to play against a team that plays in the Portuguese top-flight.

“I think they beat Benfica last season so it is going to be a difficult game.

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Wrexham AFC players in training on their pre-season trip in Portugal

“But it is always good trying to test yourself and I am looking forward to it.

“They are going to be good but we have done some work to make sure that we know how to set-up and that we are not chasing after the ball for 90 minutes.

“Sometimes you can’t go chasing after the ball. You have got to kind of sit in and wait for little triggers to go and win the ball back; make sure that we hunt in little packs of twos and threes, so it will definitely be a good test for us.”

Although how Wrexham react when they haven’t got the ball will be crucial, Jennings is looking to take advantage when the Reds are in possession.

“The gaffer likes us playing with freedom and he wants us to kind of penetrate when we have got the ball, and work in different partnerships around the pitch,” said Jennings.

“They are the kind of key fundamentals that he wants us to work on and we kind of showed that in the first two games against Druids and Fleetwood.

“But tonight will definitely be a harder test.”

This is the third successive year that Wrexham have headed to Portugal and Jennings, who has been on all the trips, has enjoyed facing foreign opposition.

“They are good experiences,” said Jennings (pictured in Portugal above). “I remember two years ago when we played Louletano the first time we came over here and it was a good experience playing against foreign opposition. It felt like a European tie.”

The team are staying at a different hotel in Vilamoura this year and the training sessions have come thick and fast ahead of the Reds’ third pre-season friendly.

“It is the third year on the bounce in Portugal and we have got a good spot here,” said Jennings.

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“It is a good time to come away for a good bit of team bonding; get to know a little bit more about the new lads and they get to gel in.

“We are training as well, some warm weather training, and it is good.

“We had a tough pool session on Sunday. I am not the best swimmer so I found that quite difficult!

“It is pre-season and that is what we are here for, to work hard and obviously work on what we are going to do against Portimonense.

“We worked on our shape yesterday in the morning and had another session in the evening.”

Mike Fondop, Matty Sargent, Jack Thorn and the injured Manny Smith have not made the trip to Portugal, although Rob Lainton, Jake Lawlor and Jason Oswell have travelled.

An ankle injury is likely to keep Lainton out of action again tonight but Lawlor (shoulder) and Oswell (groin) could play some part.

“There will definitely be players who play 90 minutes, it is just down to the personnel,” said Wrexham boss Bryan Hughes.

“We are at a level where unfortunately we can’t bring everyone but it is fantastic that we can come to Portugal and have a really strong squad here with staff, and give a good account of ourselves.”

Five summer signings - Leighton McIntosh, Devonte Redmond, JJ Hooper, Mark Harris and Adam Barton - are in Portugal and Hughes feels they are fitting into his already tight-knit squad.

“We are into our third week now and we have done two weeks of intense training,” added Hughes. “A couple of games in there as well.

“Now it is all about building the foundations and getting that group unity which is very strong anyway.

“The nucleus of the team has stayed from last season but now it is about integrating the new players and getting to know each’s character, each other personally, and this sort of trip helps that a long way.”