KEIR RADNEDGE in DONETSK: Sergio Ramos has warned his Spain team-mates never to let his Real Madrid colleague Karim Benzema out of their sights when the European champions take on France in the Donbass Arena here.
Ramos has been switched from rightback to central defender by Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque to cover the absence of injured Barcelona veteran Carles Pujol. This means he will have greater responsibility for keeping Benzema at bay that he might have expected – or wished.
Benzema, who has improved enormously under the tutelage of coach Jose Mourinho at Madrid, scored 21 goals in their Liga title-winning campaign this past season.
Ramos said: “I’ve spoken to Karim Benzema during these championships. We keep in touch by mobile. He didn’t have a good start but he’s a great forward and even though he hasn’t scored he has been working hard for his team.
“He is the sort of player who can always make the difference. That’s why it’s hard to play against him. The moment you lose sight of him is when he can score a goal. Hopefully he will not have a good day tomorrow – and that can make a great difference for us!”
Ramos said he believed his new central defensive partnership with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique had been improving from game to game during the finals. Their rivalry at club level was irrelevant.
He added: “We don’t want to talk about the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Each of us played our own way during the season but here we are team-mates to achieve a different goal. There is nothing which can influence the team. Our incentive is clear: We want to win tomorrow.”
Barcelona midfielder Sergi Busquets echoed Ramos saying: “What happened, happened and is forgotten. We spoke about it and njow we habe the same goal. We are playing for the same team and we don’t want to look back.”
Neither expected the internal conflicts within the French team to spill over into the quarter-final.
“Problems and fights they happened in every family and every home and the dressing room is similar. If you are playing in a competition like this then the objective is greater than anything which might go on in the dressing room.”
Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque said he had doubts about his line-up and tactics but then revealed this was only because he has 23 players, all of whom were worth a place in the starting line-up.
France should worry – Benzema or not.
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