Whereas many managers will rest their star players heading into a big game, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho did the exact opposite this week—playing Cristiano Ronaldo for the full 90 minutes against Real Betis, despite a key Champions League semifinal against Borussia Dortmund this week.
Los Blancos will travel to Germany this week to take on Dortmund for the third time in European competition this season, having played them twice in the group stage and gone winless throughout.
As a result, Mourinho may have been expected to rest Ronaldo ahead of that clash to ensure that the star winger was 100 percent to go on Wednesday. However, he didn't, and Ronaldo helped steer Madrid to a 3-1 victory over Betis, who have been very tough to break down this year.
The move—it must be understood—is not an unusual one for Mourinho, though it is different to what the Madrid boss has done at times this season.
Ahead of Los Blancos' two Champions League matches against Manchester United, Ronaldo was substituted. He was pulled off early against Sevilla and then introduced late against Barcelona—something that was also the case against Levante before Madrid's second leg against Galatasaray in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Ronaldo was also kept out of the starting side against Deportivo so that he would be ready to go against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey second leg.
All four times, Madrid have achieved success—beating United and Galatasaray in the Champions League and stunning Barca 3-1 in the Copa del Rey.
Yet now—with arguably the biggest European game of the year ahead of them—Ronaldo was not substituted at all. Despite having to make the very tough trip to Germany and to the imposing Westfalenstadion, Ronaldo played the full 90 minutes on the weekend, which no doubt came as a surprise to many who expected him to be substituted.
Yet whilst it's a surprise, and perhaps not the managerial tactic we expected from Mourinho, playing the full 90 minutes will affect Ronaldo very little. Other than giving him a psychological advantage, the rest would have done very little for Ronaldo given how rarely he spends time on the sidelines for Madrid—something that the statistics attest to.
In the past three years, Ronaldo has not started in just six La Liga games, and has been taken off as a substitute in just eight of them. Those numbers are even more incredible in the Champions League, where the Portuguese international has started in all but two games since 2005.
His last three seasons alone have seen him log over 2,850 minutes in the Champions League and over 8,650 minutes in La Liga (per Soccerway).
Simply put, this is a man who doesn't need the rest, per se.
Granted he might feel better—as we all do after a nice relaxing day of doing nothing—but the reality is that we're talking about a supreme athlete here.
He plays week in and week out for Madrid and is hardly affected by that, meaning it should do very little on his presence and ability to dominate Dortmund when they line up on Wednesday.
Especially not given his performance against Betis, which showed how devastating Ronaldo can be cutting on from the left. Even without scoring a goal, the 28-year-old was seemingly untouchable on the night, with his passing and crossing no doubt providing a great highlight reel for Jurgen Klopp to fret over ahead of their Champions League clash.
Dortmund will know all too well the threat that Ronaldo poses for them this week, having played him twice already this season. And whilst the Portuguese international is yet to defeat the German giants, that could all change this week at the Westfalenstadion.
Rest or no rest, Ronaldo is in incredible form this year—especially in the Champions League—and will no doubt continue that this week. Whether that in itself is enough to get Los Blancos past Dortmund, well, that still remains to be seen.
One thing's for sure, however—it certainly won't be from a lack of rest.
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