MICHAEL O’Neill is hoping Cristiano Ronaldo has a night to forget as the Portugal star prepares to earn his 100th international cap.
The Portuguese FA are expected to make a presentation to the Real Madrid forward to commemorate his century achievement.
But Northern Ireland boss O’Neill is hoping Ronaldo suffers a rare dip in form at the Dragao Stadium in Porto.
“What do I expect from him? Hopefully very little,” O’Neill joked ahead of the crunch World Cup qualifying Group F clash.
“I would be happy if he has a really poor game and he is remembered for having a bad night on his 100th cap.
“It is testament to him he has reached 100 and has 37 goals and has the goal record of 47, held by Pauleta in his sights. I expect he will test our defenders, obviously. He always plays the game with great conviction and I would not expect anything different in this game.
“We expect a very tough game. We have a situation with Ronaldo winning his 100th cap, meaning a big night for Portugal and the player himself, but the expectation is with the Portuguese players.”
O’Neill has faced the 2008 Ballon d’Or winner before, as manager of Shamrock Rovers when the League of Ireland side welcomed Real Madrid to Tallaght Stadium – in a game which the world-class Ronaldo failed to score.
So what could be different tonight?
“Well, we had an Irish referee that night,” O’Neill said, still smiling.
“We know what we are facing here and as well as the quality of player. I think what Ronaldo has is he is a goal machine as well as creative, I have seen him numerous times, very effective against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.
“He’s effective but he has also proved he is human and misses chances, we know where the threat will come from. But can we reduce possession? Can we get men around him to make life difficult? Of course.
“I think you can get over-focused on the Ronaldo thing. They have strength throughout.
“You have to recognise not many teams go to Russia and keep possession at 72 per cent, we cannot go out and say we will dominate, Portugal have excellent attributes in the counter attack, a number of their players will hurt you so we cannot leave ourselves open but we have to create the game from that point of view.”