Disruption to Spain’s World Cup preparations could play right into the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team-mates’ plans to go deep into the tournament.
The Group B rivals meet in the first eye-catching match of the 2018 tournament on Friday 15 June (1900 GMT), with Spain being coached by former captain Fernando Hierro following the shock dismissal of Julen Lopetegui earlier this week.
The ex-Porto boss will take charge of Real Madrid next term and it was the timing of that announcement that so angered Spanish FA officials.
With potential disarray in the camp – reports suggested the players wanted Lopetegui to stay – the European champions will fancy their chances of getting off to a positive start against the 2010 world champions.
However, midfielder Bernardo Silva sounded a note of caution, while emphasising the importance of his own skipper’s contribution to their campaign. “To win against Spain we need to be strong mentally”, he revealed. “Cristiano Ronaldo needs to be at his best and [we need] a bit of luck.
“Ambition is his strong point. He’s a player that has five Ballon d’Ors and five Champions Leagues, who has spent 10 years scoring more than 40 goals a season.
“That he’s managed to maintain that level gives you an idea of what he represents as a player.
“He’s our reference point, an example for everyone and we hope that he’s in his best form because only if he plays well can Portugal hope to achieve big things.”
The top two from this group meet teams from Group A, amongst the weakest in the tournament: hosts Russia, Uruguay, Egypt – with a far from fit Mo Salah – and Saudi Arabia.