It's good to already be on Champions League's 1/8 round even before the last match kicks off, right? And it's even better when your team is in the group of death. That's how Real Madrid fans should feel about tomorrow's match against Ajax Amsterdam, even though Mourinho confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Mesut Özil could feature.
The truth is, Ajax will have to play this game seriously if they want to be in the Europe League. That would be a success for De Boer and his players after being placed in the same group as Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, the reigning champions of the three best European leagues. Manchester City's ridiculous Group Stage must have something to do with Ajax's chances of qualifying to the second European competition, but Ajax's good performances against the British team should be noted.
It would be good for Mourinho to rest some of his key players after the win against Atlético Madrid, but only Alonso and Arbeloa will be left out of the team's list due to their number of yellow cards. Arbeloa was sent off after seeing his second yellow card against Manchester City, but Xabi Alonso could be available. Mourinho has decided to leave him out, because another yellow card would sideline him for the first game of the 1/8 stage. His place will likely be taken by Luka Modric, whose chemistry with the team is still a work-in-progress.
Nacho Fernández will start the game in Arbeloa's place, and given that Ramos will also be out in a similar case to Alonso's, Varane will surely make the cut and start. With Higuaín's injury, Benzema will have to start the match once again, even though Morata could get some Champions League minutes as the game goes on. Midfielder José Rodríguez is aiming to make his Champions League debut with only 17 years of age. He's one of the most interesting prospects in La Fábrica and it seems that Mourinho could also agree with that statement.
UEFA always pays almost one million Euros to every match winner, so although Real Madrid is not going through a bad financial situation, it's always good to win in this competition. Considering that Valladolid shouldn't be a very tough challenge to Mourinho's team this upcoming Saturday, starting the key players once again will not likely be a problem.
That way, both Ajax and Manchester City will have a fair shot to the Europe League, but that's also on Borussia Dortmund's hands.