Spain defender Gerard Pique is aware of the challenge posed by Portugal in the sides’ Euro 2012 semi-final, and has highlighted the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo as an area that needs special attention.
The duo played together at Manchester United and are well-acquainted thanks to their regular meetings in La Liga for their respective clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid, and after studying Ronaldo closely, Pique knows what to target to avoid serious damage being done by the forward.
“I know him fairly well,” Pique told La Vanguardia when asked about Ronaldo. “As much as the Real Madrid players in our squad can help us, we have played against him for Barca many times and we know his strengths and qualities.
“We know we can’t give him a moment to think or even breathe, not even an inch of space, because when he gathers pace he is extremely dangerous, very strong. One on one he is very good, so we cannot let him turn.”
Looking at the wider picture, Pique acknowledged the class running through Paulo Bento’s team.
“The semi-final against Portugal will be an extremely difficult game,” he said. “They have players of great quality such as Nani and Cristiano out wide, and then (Raul) Meireles and (Miguel) Veloso, players who create a lot in the middle. All things considered they are a very strong team.”
Looking back at the sides’ two most recent encounters – Spain’s 1-0 last-16 win over Portugal at the 2010 World Cup and Portugal’s 4-0 friendly victory in Lisbon later that year – Pique added: “They are a fairly similar team [to 2010]. After that, when we played a friendly in Portugal [in November 2010], they put four past us.
“I think we have to analyse both games closely, the one in Portugal because they did some great things and us not so much, and the one at the World Cup because I believe we defended very well. I also think Llorente played in the last half hour, and he was very good. We have to look at both games and see what we did well in each.”© ESPN