FIFA ranking: No. 10
All the worry about Cristiano Ronaldo’s early form in the tournament has disappeared quickly with the 27 year old scoring three times in Portugal’s last two games.
As a team, Portugal has attempted 70 shots in the tournament, putting 33 of those on target while also hitting the woodwork six times – one more than any other team in European Championship history.
Portugal has had the same starting 11 for the last six games but will make a change with striker Helder Postiga ruled out. He sustained a hamstring injury in the club’s 1-0 win over the Czech Republic. Hugo Almeida came on for him and is expected to start Thursday.
Portugal has had two extra days to recover and prepare for the game and traveled to the cooler climates of Gdansk before returning to the heat of eastern Ukraine Tuesday.
FIFA ranking: No. 1
Spain says it won’t change its formation or game plan to face Ronaldo and Portugal and why would they? Spain’s patient, ball-control strategy has helped the club to 31 wins out of 34 competitive games under Vicente Del Bosque and the club has conceded just one goal in this tournament.
Xabi Alonso completed 93.4 percent of his passes (127 of 136) against Ireland, which shows just how patient the squad is in midfield and when they do eventually find an opening, they can make the most of their chances. Alonso netted a pair in Spain’s 2-0 victory over France.
Alvaro Arbeloa will likely draw the assignment of marking Ronaldo, though the full back should have support coming behind him and on the way back from midfield whenever Portugal’s sniper gets near the ball.
Tactics and Formations
Spain will have four at the back and at least five and possibly six in midfield. If they use an outright striker, Fernando Torres will be the man, but Cesc Febregas as the front attacking midfielder might be the better bet.
Projected Spain lineup: Casillas, Ramos (Jordi Alba), Pique, Ramos (Sergio), Arbeloa, Alonso, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Silva, Fabregas.
Portugal will keep going with its 4-3-3, hoping to get the ball wide on the wings as soon as they establish possession and quickly into Spain’s territory. No changes expected for Portugal outside of the injured Postiga. They’ll look to push the ball quickly to the wings and hope to strike on the counter-attack.
Projected Portugal lineup: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Alves, Pepe, Coentrao, Meireles, Veloso, Moutinho, Nani, Almeida, Ronaldo