Portugal vs Spain – Match preview and team news

The first of the two Euro 2012 semi-finals gets under way tonight and an old rivalry is to be reignited. Current holders Spain take on 2004 runners-up Portugal, a contrast in styles but not in passion. Both have faced some tough tasks to get here, the Portguese coming second in the aptly named ‘group of death’ beating the Netherlands and Denmark to progress. Whilst Spain took on Italy and Croatia in their two toughest group games, only to face France in the quarter-finals.

Spain – although accused of playing ‘boring’ football – will come into the game prepared to dominate possession as they have done in each of their four games thus far. A midfield quartet of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Xabi Alonso, who are prone to keeping the ball with quick short passes, but the tag of ‘boring’ has been attributed to them at this tournament after scoring one goal from open play in 3 of their 4 matches – a penalty against France and a 4-0 drumming of Ireland the exceptions.

Portugal themselves were heavily criticized after their opener for similar reasons; they defended deep and didn’t use their attacking prowess to good effect against Germany, eventually losing the game 1-0. But they have since grown into the tournament, much of the excitement emulating from their former world player of the year, Cristiano Roanldo, but worthy a mention to former team mate Nani on the other side as well. They have started to attack with pace and accuracy, after struggling to get a shot on target against the Germans – 3 out of 12 – they went on to score 6 goals in their 3 games building up to this semi final.

Portugal will be pleased to know that Ronaldo and Nani are fully fit for the game against Spain tonight but for the fifth time in a row their manager, Paulo Bento, will be forced to make changes to the side. As expected, Heldar Postiga has been ruled out through in jury – being stretchered off during their quarter final against the Czech Republic – with Hugo Almeida expected to deputise.

Spain are complaining of fatigue and therefore we could see a slightly different team line up to the one we are familiar with. Fernando Torres and Pedro could both start, in what would be a more attacking and traditional format than previously seen from Spain in the quarter-final against France. Aside from that, there are no injury concerns.

History is a misleading stat between these two teams. They are by no mean strangers on the football field, the neighbours have played 34 time against each other, Spain taking the spoils on 16 occasions, Portugal only managing 6 wins – leaving 12 draws between the two over the years. But, Spain have only beaten Portugal twice in the last 54 years most recently on their way to winning the World Cup in 2010. The last time the two sides met, Portugal ran out 4-0 winners in a friendly, but tonight it’s for a place in the European Championships final.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Portugal v Spain

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