Pique plays down duel with Cristiano Ronaldo

The pair have clashed many times at club level, but while the Barca man is buoyed by his past displays against the Real Madrid star, he does not feel their battle will be decisive
Spain defender Gerard Pique has played down the importance of his duel with Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of the outcome of Wednesday's Euro 2012 semi-final clash in Donetsk.

The two players are no strangers to one another, of course, having regularly locked horns in La Liga, and the Barcelona centre-back believes that his familiarity with the Real Madrid star will work in his favour.

However, Pique is at pains to work out that it will take a collective effort if La Roja are to shut down Ronaldo and overcome the Seleccao.

"This will not be about a duel between Cristiano and Pique; you should get that out of your head," he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"This is not a direct head-to-head battle; Real Madrid against Barcelona. Spain are playing against Portugal and the best team will win, not the best player in any given personal duel.

20/1 Portugal are 20/1 to beat Spain 2-0 with Sportingbet
"The truth is that I have often marked him well. I've had good games against Cristiano Ronaldo with Barcelona and the national team, but again, I insist that it will be about team play.

"What will help us is our coverage and the pressure we put them under in midfield. We must keep the ball a lot and just be ourselves.

"If we impose our game on Portugal as we did against France, I am convinced that we will go through to the final."

In the quarter-final victory over Les Bleus, Pique stood a little deeper than central defensive colleague Sergio Ramos in recognition of the threat posed by the pacy Karim Benzema.

The former Manchester United man explained that he is likely to adopt a similar position against Portugal, who have proven fine exponents of the quickfire counterattack thus far, even though he acknowledges that standing off Ronaldo and Nani is fraught with danger.

"Surely we should play against Portugal in the same way," Pique mused. "But Cristiano and Nani are more dangerous with the ball at their feet than Benzema and [Franck] Ribery, who prefer to have some space in behind.

"But the advantage is that we know them well and we'll be waiting, trying not to give them room to create or get control of the ball."

Regardless, Pique believes that Spain's reputation now goes before them and that Portugal could be scared into sitting too deep.

"It is true that almost all teams change their game to face Spain," he acknowledged. "But we do not know what Portugal will do, really.

"We have a lot of respect because we won the European Championship and World Cup consecutively. That, like it or not, helps us a bit in terms of our opponents' approach, as it makes them very cautious."

Spain's eagerly-awaited meeting with Portugal will kick off at 20:45CET.