Jose Mourinho made an incredibly brave move heading into his second El Classico in the space of a week—he opted to rest superstar winger Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese international wasn't introduced until around the hour-mark when the two teams were locked at 1-1 which, at first glance, seemed like a bizarre and unusual thing for Mourinho to do—especially given the ferocity and passion that exists within El Classico.
But with one eye on his side's huge UEFA Champions League tussle against Manchester United next week, the Real Madrid manager seemingly sacrificed his side's chances in this match in order to preserve the superstar Ronaldo for the sake of next week's match.
Maybe it was for fitness reasons; maybe it was for preservation.
Either way, it was an incredibly bold move for Mourinho to make—sacrificing his team's chances this week in order to be more effective next week. The gamble would pay off, with Ronaldo not coming on until the 58th minute and not getting injured, and Madrid still picking up a 2-1 victory over their rivals.
But what it did highlight was both the determination of Mourinho and Madrid to win their Champions League clash next week, and just how physically ready Ronaldo will be. It sounds tough to put together, but Ronaldo will be an even bigger threat against Manchester United following his rest here.
Other than last week's game against Deportivo when Mourinho played the same card, Ronaldo has started every single other game for Madrid this year.
Since moving to the Bernabeu Stadium, Ronaldo has started the game as a substitute just six times—six out of 147 appearances that he's made (per Soccerway). That's pretty self-explanatory as to why—you want to play your best players—but there is no denying that Ronaldo plays an awful lot of action for Real Madrid, and does so without a break in between.
Thus with some time off to recover from the Copa del Rey and prime himself for the week ahead, Ronaldo must be touted as an even bigger threat.
It's not that he needs the rest for physical reasons per se, but the psychological side of it in allowing him to not start will no doubt do wonders for the winger. Especially coming up against his old club and teammates at United, where the psychological side of things will matter even more.
The 28-year-old is truly in incredible form for Madrid once again this season, and will be the main man to watch when the two teams take the field Wednesday.
Expect him to be fresh, but more importantly to feel fresh and ready, as he seeks to carry Madrid through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and for the superstar winger to show that in his performance against the Red Devils during the week.
Who you got—Manchester United or Real Madrid?
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