[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] With the round of 16 half over Jose Mourinho's correct choice won't be popular in Madrid, great theater is going ignored, and the ripple effects of Barca's flop.
Mourinho’s choice: Real Madrid’s biggest game all year is at Manchester United on Tuesday, it happens on two days rest, follows back-to-back Clasicos, and represents its third match in eight days.
An electrifying 3-1 win in Barcelona two days ago earned Madrid a Copa del Rey final berth, and momentum. Mourinho handcuffing his third-place team to the bench inside a hostile Bernabeu for Saturday’s empty edition of the world’s biggest rivalry would earn fresh legs, and a better chance to carry a 10th European cup to Spain’s capital.
With one foot out the door, and both eyes on history -- the Special One’s the man to do it.
Off Broadway: Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford Tuesday, but the tournament’s most entertaining teams will be on a field the Times in London named “world’s best soccer stadium” -- Westfalenstadion in Germany.
After outshining Chelsea, Juventus, Madrid and Man City during group play, either Ukrainian giant Shakhtar Donetsk’s or two-time Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund’s early exit will happen as planet soccer orbits Manchester.
Barcelona beat Mircea Lucescu’s squad in last year’s quarters, now Darijo Srna, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Brazilians like Fernandinho must overturn Dortmund’s 2-2 result in Donetsk against Jurgen Klopp’s lethal lineup of Marco Reus, Mario Goetze, Robert Lewandowski, Lukasz Piszczek, and their 80,000 flag-waving fans –-- your DVR was invented for games like this.
The Barca effect: After posing for AC Milan’s Italian masterpiece Barcelona needs a three-goal margin in the return, 2-0 means overtime, while Bayern Munich’s evisceration of Arsenal left London calling it the front-runner, that’s bad.
Going out to Milan, Madrid progressing, Leo Messi dribbling out the La Liga title clock while Madrid plays in the Copa del Rey final and Cristiano chases La Decima sounds worse.
Current top ten: Bayern Munich 3/1, Barca 9/2, Madrid 9/2, Dortmund 7/1, United 8/1, Juve 9/1, PSG 18/1, Milan 20/1, FC Porto 35/1, and Schalke 50/1…. Former: Barca 15/8, Bayern 6/1, United 12/1 and Milan 80/1…
Take: Bayern is a deserving favorite, Old Trafford’s survivor is second, Juve’s toughness is translating, Dortmund’s struggling outside the UCL, Joao Moutinho’s Porto team is underrated, Milan’s still a longshot, PSG needs more respect, and Barca’s name needs less…
Odds offer the best source of perceived strength, requiring wagers to watch soccer probably means -- you’re not viewing it right.