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

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.