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Champions League teams make big changes for weekend matches

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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:

Changes Club Out In
7 Barcelona

in progress

Jordi Alba
Sergio Busquets
Xavi Hernandez
Javier Mascherano
Lionel Messi
David Villa
Victor Valdes
Thiago Alcantera
Marc Barta
Cesc Fabregas
Martin Montoya
Pedro Pinto
Alexander Song
Cristian Tello
Borussia Dortmund

won vs. Augsburg, 4-2

Mario Gotze
Ilkay Gundogan
Sebastian Kehl
Robert Lewandowski
Lukasz Piszczek
Marco Reus
Roman Weinfeller
Sven Bender
Leonardo Bittebcourt
Jonas Hofmann
Moritz Leitner
Nuri Sahin
Julian Schieber
Marcel Schmelzer
Juventus

won vs. Pescara, 2-1

Andrea Barzagli
Gianluigi Buffon
Giorgio Chiellini
Claudio Marchisio
Alessandro Matri
Andrea Pirlo
Fabio Quagliarella</td>
Kwadwo Asamoah
Emanuele Giaccherini
Sebastian Giovinco
Luca Marrone
Poul Pogba
Marco Storari
Mirko Vucinic
Málaga

lost at Real Sociedad, 4-2

Julio Baptista
Willy Caballero
Martin Demichelis
Isco
Joaquin
Javier Saviola
Jeremy Toulalan
Ignacio Camacho
Sebastian Fernández
Carlos Kameni
Diego Lugano
Pedro Morales
Francisco Portillo
Roque Santa Cruz
Paris Saint-Germain

won at Rennes, 2-0

Alex
David Beckham
Christophe Jallet
Ezequiel Lavezzi
Lucas Moura
Javier Pastore
Thiago Silva
Zoumana Camara
Clement Chantome
Kevin Gameiro
Jeremy Menez
Mamadou Sahko
Marco Veratti
Gregory van der Wiel
Real Madrid

won vs. Levante, 5-1

Fabio Coentrao
Angel Di Maria
Michael Essien
Sami Khedira
Mesut Ozil
Cristiano Ronaldo
Raphael Varane
Alvaro Arbeloa
José Callejon
Gonzalo Higuain
Kaka
Marcelo
Luka Modric
Pepe
5 Bayern Munich

won at Eintracht Frankfurt, 1-0

Luiz Gustavo
Toni Kroos
Mario Mandzukic
Franck Ribery
Daniel van Buyten
Jerome Boateng
Mario Gomez
Xavi Martinez
Arjen Robben
Xherdan Shaqiri
4 Galatasaray

won vs. Mersin Idmanyurdu, 3-1

Emmanuel Eboue
Selcuk Inan
Semik Kaya
Albert Riera
Hakan Balta
Emre Colak
Sabri Sarioglu
Gokhan Zan

Europa League: Mourinho says targeted Man Utd must win; Saints shorthanded

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United makes his way to the tunnel after the final whistle  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Europa League goes into its second day of group play with the onus on the biggest club in the tournament to pick up a win.

Don’t believe us? Ask Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.

“To be honest, I think we have to win,” Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference. “If we don’t win, I would say we’d have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult, so I think it is very important that we win this game.”

[ MORE: Wenger excited at Arsenal’s chances ]

United fell 1-0 at Feyenoord to open the group stage, and now hosts Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday. He knows its the equivalent of a massive Cup match for the visitors.

“The Europa League is a competition Man United isn’t normally in, so when these teams have a giant like Man United in front of them, it’s a huge moment for them and they come to the game with incredible motivation.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will start for United, as there’s a chance that Anthony Martial will rejoin the side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is out, and Wayne Rooney (back) and Luke Shaw (illness) may not play.

The other Premier League side in play is Southampton, as the Saints take a long flight to Israel for a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Saints handled Sparta Prague at home, and now face the Camels, who went to Inter Milan and won. Southampton is without Charlie Austin, Jose Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, and Steven Davis.

Should be a very decent match from Turner Stadium in Be’er Sheva.

Elsewhere

all times ET

Mainz at Gabala — 11 a.m.
Young Boys at Astana — 11 a.m.
Osmanlispor at Zurich — 1 p.m.
Red Bull Salzburg at Schalke — 1 p.m.
PAOK at Liberec — 1 p.m.
Qarabag at Fiorentina — 1 p.m.
Villarreal at Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m.
Nice at Krasnodar — 1 p.m.
Standard Liege at Ajax — 1 p.m.
Braga at Shakhtar Donetsk — 1 p.m.
Panathinaikos at Celta Vigo — 1 p.m.
Inter Milan at Sparta Prague — 1 p.m.
Konyaspor at Gent — 1 p.m.
Sassuolo at Genk — 3:05 p.m.
Zorya at Manchester United — 3:05 p.m.
Anderlecht at Saint-Etienne — 3:05 p.m.
Apoel Nicosia at Olympiacos — 3:05 p.m.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Dundalk — 3:05 p.m.
Feyenoord at Fenerbahce — 3:05 p.m.
Rapid Wien at Athletic Bilbao — 3:05 p.m.
Viktoria Plzen at Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m.
AZ Alkmaar at Zenit Saint-Petersburg — 3:05 p.m.
Astra Giurgiu at AS Roma — 3:05 p.m.

Wenger after UCL win: This year’s Arsenal has “interesting potential”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Arsenal FC and FC Basel 1893 at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is growing in confidence when it comes to his Gunners’ chances in England and Europe, and it’s not hard to see why.

Four days after Arsenal battered Chelsea 3-0 in Premier League action, the Gunners went out and handled FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Theo Walcott scored both goals in the 2-0 win, and there could’ve been so many more. Arsenal was fast, deliberate, creative, and dangerous. The finishing was not ideal, but the promise was massive.

Perhaps more important, the Gunners posted a third-straight clean sheet and have allowed just four goals in eight matches since the 4-3 loss to Liverpool that opened the PL season.

And Wenger acknowledges that his side can do big things, provided it doesn’t get too full of itself after solid performances. From Arsenal.com:

“It looks like the team has interesting potential. We have to be ambitious and, as you know, keep our feet on the ground to continue to develop. We know exactly how we want to play football and we have to continue to stick to that and get better at it. That demands big focus and some leadership inside the squad. It also requires humility.”

Arsenal has a very winnable run in the Premier League, and could be right there with Manchester City by the end of October. And with a winnable UCL group, who knows what the Gunners could do with a decent knockout round draw?

Bayern can’t break down Simeone’s Atleti: “We played too slowly”

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Bayern Muenchen looks on before the UEFA Champions League group D match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on September 28, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich sits second in Group D of this season’s UEFA Champions League after losing its toughest match of the bunch: a trip to the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid won 1-0 when Antoine Griezmann linked up with Yannick Carrasco for a first half goal and Diego Simeone’s stubborn defense lived up to its reputation in blanking the Bavarians.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup ]

Manager Carlo Ancelotti has been frustrated by Simeone in the past, perhaps most notably in his brief stint at Real Madrid. But the Bayern boss says the loss was down to speed.

“We tried to get back into the game but we played too slowly, which is why we did not have many chances to equalize,” Ancelotti said. “It’s never nice to lose.”

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer also acknowledged a lack of speed in a way, pointing at urgency when he said, “Atlético showed a killer instinct tonight and we didn’t.”

Bayern hosts PSV Eindhoven in its next UCL match on Oct. 19.

Guardiola, Rodgers left to unpack thrilling Celtic-Man City draw

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Brendan Rodgers, Manager of Celtic issues instructions to his players next to Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Celtic FC and Manchester City FC at Celtic Park on September 28, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
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What a match in Glasgow.

The UEFA Champions League group stage returned to Celtic Park on Wednesday, where the hosts thrilled their crowd by taking a trio of leads before settling for a 3-3 draw with mighty Manchester City.

[ MORE: JPW on Walcott’s Arsenal heroics ]

The draw is the first competitive game City hasn’t won under Pep Guardiola, but the manager didn’t feel much like complaining after his team rallied.

From the BBC:

Guardiola: “It was difficult for us. I’m happy with the reaction from the players, it’s not easy to score three goals away.

“I don’t know how many the chances they had after the third goal. We should have won it.”

As for Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, he was tickled. After all, Celtic had fallen 7-0 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou during their first outing.

From the BBC:

Rodgers: “We were brilliant, the pressing and the energy. Every time we went forward we looked like we could score.

“Apart from the Barcelona game these players have been operating at a high level this season. Now, to do it against that team, it was a magnificent performance.”

Celtic Park was loud on Wednesday, and both sides gave the crowd plenty of oohs and aahs. It’s hard to imagine Celtic could do the same again, and City did give away a pair of goals (one own goal from Raheem Sterling, one gaffe from Aleksandar Kolarov).

But for one afternoon, who cares about anything other than an entertaining 90 minutes?