Xabi Alonso has said that, while Portugal may be little changed in terms of personnel from the side Spain beat in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, mentally they are worlds apart.
Alonso, who celebrated his 100th cap in style with a double in the 2-0 win over France in last Saturday's quarter-final, added their EURO 2012 semi-final in Donetsk on Wednesday would be an intense affair between two sets of players who know each other well.
"It's pretty much the same Portugal side (that the Spanish beat 1-0 in the 2010 second round match)," said Alonso. "But from the morale point of view, they are on another planet from the one of 2010. We are very aware of their strengths and notably of their outstanding forwards... We know them really well and vice versa. Thus there will be no major surprises. But it will be an intense affair."
Alonso, who has enjoyed a stellar club career winning the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool before a £30million pound move to Real Madrid in 2009 where he played an integral role in ending Barcelona's hold on the title last season, said there was no specific plan to stop Portugal captain and clubmate Cristiano Ronaldo.
Defending against him, it is the same secret as for any other player: to stay in contact, to be near to him.
"No, we haven't planned anything special," he said. "Obviously, I'm not saying that we haven't studied and analysed his games here. During the game, each one of us will have to adjust accordingly to what we are doing to try and halt him. But for the rest, we will continue to play according to our usual principles.
"Defending against him, it is the same secret as for any other player: to stay in contact, to be near to him. But for me it isn't just about Ronaldo as both Pepe and Fabio Coentrao (also from Real Madrid) are also in terrific form. That doesn't surprise me: they are bringing their excellent form for the club last season into this championship."
Alonso, whose leadership skills were recognised at an early age by Welsh coach John Toshack as he appointed him captain of Real Sociedad aged just 19, was philosophical about having two days less to recover from their quarter-final (Portugal beat Czech Republic 1-0 on Thursday) and prepare for the semi.
"It's a fact, it is what it is," he said. "But we must get over that. From the moment that the quarter-final was over our priority was to recover as best as possible. The round trip from Poland to Ukraine and back again (their base camp is in Gniewino, Poland, near to Gdansk) didn't really inconvenience us. We knew that the 48 hours difference in terms of when the respective quarter-finals were wasn't ideal. However, that's how the cards fell."