Weblog: The football punter

A weekend break is a real advantage in Europe

YOU can’t help but laugh – though I doubt Jose Mourinho is seeing the funny side.

The Chelsea boss has been boring us for weeks about the rigours of the Premier League fixture schedule and the impact it’s been having on his side.

I’m inclined to agree with him. I’m convinced Demba Ba would be homing in on the 30-goal mark had Chelsea not had to suffer the occasional inconvenience of playing a couple of games in a week.

And it’s blindingly obvious to everyone that Sunderland would never have won at the Bridge on Saturday had Chelsea had a well-deserved six-week sabbatical after their win at Swansea.

Anyway, the funny bit is this. Over in Madrid, Spanish footy chiefs showed that it is possible to do whatever they want by deciding to call off Real’s match at Valladolid on Saturday to give them breathing space ahead of their Champions League showdown with Bayern.

Valladolid, naturally enough, were gutted thinking this probably wasn’t a bad time to be playing Real with Ronaldo rested and Carlo Ancelotti’s eyes on the Bayern tie, but no.

A phone call to HQ from the big cheese at the Bernabeu and bosh – game off. Amazing what you can get if you don’t make a constant fuss, isn’t it Jose?

Bayern, of course, also go into the tie fresh having downed tools in about mid-March once they’d won the Bundesliga, so there’s no excuse for this one not being a belter.

I’m concerned that any side which makes Man United look half decent must be doing something wrong, so I’ll have a bit of Real Madrid to take a lead back to Germany for the second leg.

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Match in Focus

20:05 Th 24Apr ITV4

Benfica v Juventus

Home Win Draw Away Win
Expert verdict
The two best teams left in the Europa League meet in Lisbon and Benfica look a value punt to take a lead back to Turin. Benfica have an outstanding home record in European competition and Juventus showed with their early Champions League exit that they are not hugely comfortable on the road in hostile arenas.