With most domestic races in Europe long decided, it’s interesting to note the huge changes Champions League teams made in league action. Six of the eight teams chancing the European Cup made seven changes on Saturday. Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich was one of two teams to keep over half their lineup in place, making only five changes, while Turkish leaders Galatasaray returned seven players who started Wednesday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu.
For a veteran team like Juventus, the changes are necessary. An aging squad can’t play three games in nine days (which is why it was so curious that Antonio Conte started a full-strength team last Saturday at Inter Milan). For teams with younger legs, there are two schools of thought. You don’t want to do anything to disrupt whatever rhythm or momentum your team’s built; however, fatigue and injury have to be considered. If you’re facing struggling opposition in a game that won’t influence your league fortunes, the benefits of maintaining a routine don’t outweigh using caution.
Some of this weekend’s moves were forced by fitness. After a mid-week injury, Toni Kroos is out for much of the rest of the season, as is Javier Mascherano. Lionel Messi, a doubt for Wednesday against Paris Saint-Germain, was out this weekend.
Here are the ins and outs for each team on Saturday. Players in italics came on as substitutes:
won vs. Augsburg, 4-2
won vs. Pescara, 2-1
lost at Real Sociedad, 4-2
Roque Santa Cruz
won at Rennes, 2-0
Gregory van der Wiel
won vs. Levante, 5-1
Angel Di Maria
won at Eintracht Frankfurt, 1-0
Daniel van Buyten
won vs. Mersin Idmanyurdu, 3-1
With Wayne Rooney‘s future left uncertain at Old Trafford, could a potential return to Everton be in the works?
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Toffees manager Ronald Koeman certainly hopes so.
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Rooney, 31, has fallen out of favor with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho recently, leaving the Englishman on the brink of a move away from the Red Devils.
The veteran attacker has posted just one goal and two assists in eight Premier League matches this season, leaving Koeman optimistic about a Rooney return to Goodison Park for the first time since 2004.
“First of all, I think it is a great player, and he has still not finished his career,” he said. “I do not know how his situation is, and I need to respect that situation. That’s not my problem.
“But even when we get one time the possibility that Rooney is an option for Everton, I’m very pleased.”
While it’s merely speculation at this point that Rooney will in fact leave Old Trafford this season, Mourinho’s recent tendencies of dropping the attacker suggest that the long-time England goalscorer will find a new destination.
Koeman has reinvigorated Everton since his arrival over the summer, bringing the Toffees up to sixth in the PL.
Following a third straight year without playoff soccer, the Houston Dynamo have turned to face in an attempt to revitalize the club.
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The Dynamo announced on Friday that the team has hired Wilmer Cabrera as the organization’s fourth head coach in franchise history, following a recent coaching stint with the Dynamo’s USL affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.
“I am excited to join the Houston Dynamo. It’s a great club with a great history, and I am ready for the challenge,” Cabrera said via a press release from the club. “I look forward to working with the ownership group, management, our staff and the players to return the Dynamo to the level that the club and our fans deserve and expect.”
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Cabrera, 48, holds a wealth of experience as both a player and manager, which includes his playing days with the Colombia national team during the 1980s and 1990s. The former defender previously managed now-defunct MLS side Chivas USA as well as the U.S. Under-17 national team.
Antonio Conte has been called a mastermind in the past for his unconventional tactics. Now, it’s those same tactics that are making him look the part of a genius yet again at Stamford Bridge.
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Since changing his system to a 3-4-3 following Chelsea’s gutting 3-0 defeat against Arsenal last month, the Blues have gone on to win three straight Premier League matches, including a recent 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United on Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge.
As important as the results are for Chelsea at the moment, the even more impressive aspect is the way that the Blues are winning matches. In their three consecutive victories, Conte’s side has failed to concede a goal, which has helped bring Chelsea to within a point at the summit of the PL.
Not only do the supporters appreciate Conte’s willingness to adapt and build a team that plays up to its greatest potential, but defender Cesar Azpilicueta is one of the many players that have uttered similar sentiments about the Italian’s tactics.
“I find it good. The most important thing for me is the team and since we changed the system we haven’t conceded goals in the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports.
“I try to play my part in the team. The most important part of the system is the spirit of the team and the way we work. The tactics make a difference but what was most pleasing was the way the team work made it happen. Some players have different roles now but we have all week to work on that and we have a very clear idea what to do in the game. We have different options from the attacking fullbacks now.”
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Azpilicueta has been one of three key figures for Chelsea at the back since Conte made the switch defensively, joining Gary Cahill
and David Luiz
in a partnership that looks hard to crack at the moment.
Despite some talks linking a possible two or even three nation bid for the 2026 World Cup, Mexico has opened the door for El Tri to host the world’s biggest football competition for a record third time.
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Mexico Football Federation president Decio de Maria recently told ESPN that he and his country are prepared to go ahead with a bid for the 2026 edition of the tournament with or without any hypothetically joint bid.
“I don’t know [whether we would pursue a joint bid] but the rules are already open to it,” De Maria said. “What was agreed upon makes the path perfectly clear.
“Mexico will be in the hunt to host the 2026 World Cup.”
In addition to Mexico, the United States has been considered an early favorite to be named hosts in 2026 after losing out to Qatar for the 2022 competition. The U.S., Mexico and Canada have also been linked with a joint bid between the three CONCACAF nations, as the region looks to bring the World Cup back to North America for the first time since 1994 (when the U.S. hosted).
Mexico previously hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, and is one of four nations to have held the tournament on home soil more than once.