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Clash of the Iberians

Fernando Torres has yet to spark into life at the World Cup although Spain's Euro 2008 hero has the ideal stage to rediscover his best form in Tuesday's last-16 clash with neighbours Portugal.

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2010 01:06 IST

Fernando Torres has yet to spark into life at the World Cup although Spain's Euro 2008 hero has the ideal stage to rediscover his best form in Tuesday's last-16 clash with neighbours Portugal.

After returning from knee surgery shortly before the tournament, Torres was overshadowed by strike partner David Villa in the European champions' three Group H matches and looks well short of his devastating best.

While Villa netted three times, including two of the finest goals so far in South Africa, Torres squandered several and looked a shadow of the player who scored a brilliant winning goal in the Euro 2008 final against Germany.

“It's not easy coming back after an operation,” the 26-year-old said in an interview. “I think I still have a little way to go before I am back at 100 per cent, although I am close,” he added.

Vicente del Bosque is likely to keep faith with Torres alongside Villa in a two-pronged attack as the Spanish seek to become the first team to score against the resilient Portuguese at this World Cup.

The Spain coach has been at pains to point out that there is more to Torres than goals, noting that the powerful forward has an important role in sowing chaos among defenders.

“The main thing is that he played in the three (group) matches, he has been making progress in his preparation and he is better,” Del Bosque told said. “He may not have scored but he helps us by being a menace for the opposition's defence,” he added. “And when he gets into space he is always a very dangerous player.”

Del Bosque and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz have injury concerns, with Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso doubtful after spraining an ankle against Chile and Portugal winger Danny struggling with a left thigh injury.

Deco has recovered from the hip problem that ruled him out of Portugal's final two Group G games and Spain central defender Raul Albiol, an unused substitute thus far, is sidelined after being injured in training.

Portugal also have seven players on yellow cards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Pedro Mendes, Hugo Almeida, Pepe, Tiago, Fabio Coentrao and Duda, while the Spanish have not collected a single caution.

Midfielder Javi Martinez, likely to replace Alonso, also jumped to Torres's defence. “Fernando has been bringing a lot to the team,” the 21-year-old said. “I am sure he will rediscover his top form in the next few matches.”