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Blues players commence battle

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Meireles and Torres ready ahead of Euro clash

Raul Meireles has started every game for the Portuguese side thus far, and he will certainly fancy their chances of performing a major surprise tonight, particularly with Cristiano Ronaldo in such dangerous form at the moment.

The Spanish, following a mixed set of performances in the group stages, were excellent in their 2-0 win against France on Saturday, and the question that hangs above coach Vicente Del Bosque will be whether or not to play with super-striker Fernando Torres, or stick with Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas in a more advanced role.

It’s been clear that on both occasions when they have started with Torres – against Republic of Ireland and Croatia – Spain have won the game convincingly, while also possessing far more cutting edge and hunger.

Portugal have been impressive since losing their opening game 1-0 to Germany, winning their following three matches with exceptional confidence.

The Spaniards, meanwhile, have potential matchwinners all over the pitch. Torres, if selected, has shown glimpses of what he can produce, particularly in the 4-0 win over Republic of Ireland when he scored twice. Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Xabi Alonso, who scored both goals against France on Saturday, have also shown consistency in form.

With the likes of Pedro, Jesus Navas, Santi Cazorla and Chelsea’s Juan Mata, who is yet to feature, it just goes to show the strength of the squad and the talent available for Del Bosque to select from.

The last competitive meeting between the two teams came at the 2010 World Cup in Germany, when a lone David Villa goal was enough to send Spain through to the quarter-finals, while a few months later Portugal got their revenge with a 4-0 friendly win in Lisbon.

With so much at stake, semi-finals are historically notorious affairs, and expect this one to be much the same. The first goal could be crucial, but with Spain possessing more of an all-round attacking threat, they may just shade it, remaining on course to become the first team to retain the trophy.

But the fact remains that Spain have won just two of their last 12 games against Portugal, having met three times in a major tournament, winning once each and drawing the other game. Tonight’s clash will only be the third time that Spain and Portugal will have met outside of the Iberian Peninsula.

Mike Jones

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