Cristiano Ronaldo will play for Portugal tonight after Martinez praise

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to feature for Portugal in tonight’s Euro 2024 warm-up game against the Republic of Ireland with coach Roberto Martinez hailing the veteran striker as a “special player”.

Ronaldo was an unused substitute in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Croatia and has not played for his country since the 2-0 loss to Slovenia in March.

But with the finals starting on Friday – and Portugal’s first game coming on June 18 against the Czech Republic – he will receive some minutes against the Irish in Aveiro.

Asked if he was confident the 39-year-old still had the legs to play Martinez’s high-tempo style, the former Belgium coach said: “He is important to us, we attack and defend with 11 players and Cristiano has enormous experience. There is no player with the experience of playing in five Euros, now the sixth.

“He is a player who knows how to use the space in the area and is a finisher, a special player.

“The defensive positions of Cristiano were perfect in the games we played. So, for me, there is no doubt, there is no concern.”

Ruben Neves and Pepe will also feature against an Ireland side managed on an interim basis by Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mate John O’Shea.

“The important thing is that we have Ruben, Pepe and Cristiano and it’s a perfect game to give them minutes as part of the preparation period,” added Martinez.

“What happens in European Championships and World Cups is that you have to evaluate every day as all games have different incidents.

“Cristiano had 51 games last season and had no problems playing all of them. But games at club level are not the same as at the national team level.

“I don’t think there’s any problem but we will evaluate it in real time during the tournament.”

How has Portugal’s preparation gone?

Portugal’s build-up to the main event in Germany has been mixed with defeats to Slovenia and Croatia and wins over Sweden and Finland.

Martinez is unconcerned but is looking for his players to put on a show tonight in front of a sell-out crowd.

He said: “We are working very, very well.

“We need to see a different game [against Ireland]. The Aveiro stadium is sold out and it’s an opportunity to prepare the team but I am happy with what the players have done in these days of preparation.”



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