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