Spanish FA to help Euro contenders

The Spanish Football Federation are willing to help Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia if they reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League by allowing them to play on the Friday before the European showdowns.

The trio face Arsenal, Lyon and Schalke 04 in the second leg of the round of 16. The successful clubs will be given a minimum of four days to prepare for their Champions League quarter-finals ties – of course there could be an all-Spanish class as there is no country ‘seeding’ at the quarter-finals stage.

The federation and television companies have been in touch with the clubs and all parties are in favour. The only condition is that for TV purposes Real and Barcelona would have staggered kick-offs.

Jose Mourinho, the Real coach, has been the prime mover behind the idea because he is unhappy with having so little time to prepare his squad, especially for away ties when they have to fly the day before the game.

It means the Spanish clubs’ players will have an extra day to recover from any knocks while for a Wednesday tie they would have five days to be ready.

The scheme will no doubt give the Spanish representatives an advantage with Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and Harry Redknapp no doubt looking on with envy as English football would never entertain such a change even though European success has a positive knock-on effect on the Barclays Premier League.

CRISTIANO Ronaldo’s ‘perfect’ record of being the only player to play every minute of every match in the Spanish League this season has come to an end.

Barclays Premier League managers are obsessed by rotation but the Real Madrid winger is never rested and rarely substituted by Jose Mourinho.

Ronaldo brought his total to 2,327 consecutive minutes of league action in the 7-0 thrashing of Malaga last week when he scored a hat-trick (though remarkably Madrid-based newspapers make the figure higher as they include stoppage time).

He picked up a hamstring injury scoring his third goal in the 77th minute and left the field – as Real had used all three substitutes they played the remaining 13 minuites with 10 men. Ronaldo missed Real’s 3-1 win over Racing Santander on Sunday and is expected to be sidelined for between seven and 10 days.

The former Manchester United player had not been substituted in any of Real’s 26 Primera Liga matches until Malaga when strictly speaking he was not substituted. He has also played in all of Real’s seven Champions League ties, substituted once, and has appeared in all seven Copa del Rey games, one as a substitute.

Mourinho paid tribute to the Portugal international’s long playing record. He said: ‘Cristiano Ronaldo is an essential player for us.

‘The problem of playing a game every three or four days is not so much of a physical nature but rather psychological. It is hard but he is a man and a man is a creature of habit. Therefore a player is a creature of habit.’

But now Ronaldo has joined the ranks of mere mortals and will be out of action for another week or so.

AROUND 20 of the Barclays Premier League’s top players will have virtually no rest this summer because of the Copa America – South America’s equivalent of the European Championship.

The tournament will be held in Argentina and runs from July 1 – 24. Finalists will want their squads together two weeks before the tournament starts so players representing favourites Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are set to be away for almost six weeks.

Argentina will probably call on the Manchester City pair Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta plus Newcastle’s Fabricio Coloccini.

Brazil, rebuilding after a disappointing 2010 World Cup, could include eight English-based players: Heurelho Gomes and Sandro (Spurs), Lucas and Ramires (Liverpool), Rafael and Anderson (Manchester United), David Luiz (Chelsea) and, if fit, the Blues defender Alex.

Ecuador will want United winger Antonio Valencia who has almost recovered from damaged ankle ligaments with new Liverpool striker Luis Suarez a certainty for Uruguay.

United’s latest star Javier Hernandez will play for Mexico as will Arsenal striker Carlos Vela, currently on loan at West Bromwich.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini, Kenny Dalglish, Harry Redknapp, Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew will not be happy at having key players in action throughout the close season, joining up with the rest of the squad as pre-season friendlies begin but there is nothing they can do about the situation.

Christopher Davies

The Latest

To Top