The Spanish take on the Portuguese in a clash billed as the international ‘El Clasico’ given the rivalry between the two sides. Both teams ooze class across the park and will be hoping that one of their stars can take the initiative and fire their team into the Euro 2012 final. Here are three of the key battles to watch on Wednesday:
Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Sergio Ramos
Ronaldo will start out wide for Portugal, but the talisman provides his main threat when running at the heart of the defence. The onus is therefore on his Real Madrid teammate Sergio Ramos to stop him. He knows his game inside out from training and with his pace and technical ability, Ramos is well-equipped to keep Ronaldo quiet. However, Cristiano’s runs in behind are unstoppable on occasion, indeed you only have to look at his two goals against the Dutch when he split their back four in half with perfectly timed runs across the line as the perfect example. Ramos will also have to be careful in the air, he isn’t quite as solid as perhaps Carles Puyol would be in this area and Ronaldo provides such a threat when bursting onto the end of crosses. Just ask the Czechs. It may seem an obvious statement, but stopping Ronaldo would go a long way in helping Spain reach Kiev on Sunday night.
Miguel Veloso vs. Xavi
Everyone knows about Xavi’s incredible ability with the ball and his metronomic-like passing range. However, people don’t give enough credit to the man charged with disrupting the flow of Spanish possession on Wednesday night, Miguel Veloso. Once rated as one of the brightest talents in European football, the defensive midfielder left Sporting to join Genoa in 2010 and has rather disappeared off the radar since then. However, he has gone about his business efficiently this tournament, breaking up plays and distributing the ball effectively to those around him. Spain will always dominate the game in terms of possession, so Portugal are relying on Veloso to cut off attacks in the final third, while also attempting to disrupt Xavi in his efforts to keep Spain ticking over. A tough ask, but one he is perfectly capable of.
João Pereira vs. Jordi Alba
A tale of two attacking wing backs, indeed Alba has been so impressive, France picked two full backs down the right flank to deal with his threat. Pereira loves steaming forward for Portugal as well and both players provide a decent option as an out-ball if the midfield gets clogged up. Alba is only one of two non-Real Madrid or Barcelona players in the Spanish line-up, though he seems certain to seal a move to the Nou Camp following a splendid tournament. Pereira though is Alba’s teammate at Valencia, having joined them last year from Sporting so he will know all about the qualities Jordi has to offer. Which ever full back can pin his opponent back in his own half could help swing the clash in the way of their team, especially if they’re given the chance to highlight their offensive capabilities.
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