Cristiano Ronaldo appears to be heading into the World Cup for Portugal in peak physical condition yet again.
Portugal will be hoping Ronaldo can fire them to victory against a Spain side, who remarkably sacked their manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s muscular hamstrings were clear to see on Thursday during training
Ronaldo appears to be in peak physical condition ahead of Portugal’s World Cup campaign
The Real Madrid star was in high spirits as he trained with Portugal team-mates on Thursday
However, Portugal boss Fernando Santos does not expect the shockwaves of managerial crisis to have any impact on Spain’s gifted and experienced team.
The European champions open their World Cup campaign against their Iberian neighbours on Friday in Sochi.
It is one of the most attractive fixtures of the first round of games in Russia even without the added spice of Spain’s decision to axe Lopetegui.
Fernando Santos expects to face a strong Spain side despite the sacking of Julen Lopetegui
Santos and his Portugal squad take on Spain in their opening World Cup group game on Friday
Lopetegui was sacked by Spain on the eve of the eagerly-anticipated World Cup
‘Spain have played the same way for 10 years,’ said Santos. ‘I don’t think there will be any surprises. This is Spain versus Portugal: two great teams with great players. It is a classic, two countries with a lot in common: their borders for one.
‘These are two neighbours, two teams with the goal to win the game and believe in what they can do.
‘Spain is a fantastic opponent, highly qualified and therefore it’s a game consolidated through the years but there is no perfect team and we have prepared physically and mentally.
‘Our team is full of hope, not presumptuous. We respect a great team like Spain. But we can face any opponent with the ambition to win the game.
Santos, here talking to Real Madrid star Ronaldo, doesn’t ‘think there will be any surprises’
Ronaldo and his Portugal team-mates enjoyed some possession-based drills on Thursday
‘All the rest is not going to count. OK, we have Fernando Hierro and I’m not going to say good luck but I hope they have a great tournament.’
Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho echoed the thoughts of his manager.
‘Will it have a negative effect on them, no, I don’t think so,’ said Moutinho. ‘As a positive? Maybe. I think Spain will have prepared in the best possible way for a few weeks. This change will not alter anything in the way they play.
‘They are going to stick to what they’ve been doing during the qualifiers and preparatory matches. We expect, a strong team, very united and one who will create challenges, but we have a quality team and aim for victory.
‘We are looking at our team. We know the responsibility we’re facing and we’re ready. We know our quality. We have a young and ambitious team, aiming high. Portugal is among the candidates to be able to take this cup home.’
The Euro 2016 champions train at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, where they take on Spain
Joao Moutinho also doesn’t think Lopetegui’s sacking will have a negative effect on Spain
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