Given we're currently in the midst of an international break at the time of writing, I thought I'd spend half an hour to knock a quick blog post together on reserves teams / second teams / U23 football / feeder clubs to highlight a few points that people probably haven't considered. If you have, brilliant, move on with your day...
Firstly, there's a big difference between the way sides in England and many other countries handle reserves football. Leagues such as England have two completely different systems between the professional and reserves teams, but in leagues like Germany, Spain, Austria, Norway and loads of others, reserves teams are actually a part of the lower leagues of the same tiering, albeit normally with a cap on the level at which they can play. In Germany for example, "II sides" or reserves can play anywhere up to the 3rd tier in the 3.Liga and it's not possible for them to achieve anything higher than that no matter what they do. In Norway it's a similar story with the Eliteserien and OBOS Ligaen locked off to reserves teams. But another important thing to consider is what each country allows in terms of "lending" players.
During an international break in particular, you might notice a huge surge in form from these reserve sides, and there's a simple reason for this. Let's take Norway as an example. Their Eliteserien and OBOS Ligaen both take part in the international break, while the remaining leagues continue. Now not every player from Lillestrom or Rosenborg or Odd are playing international football, and there may be plenty of players who could do with a rest, but their are also others who need to maintain match fitness. During international breaks you will often see first team players helping out these reserve sides to give them a boost. The same can happen when a reserve side is on the verge of relegation. It's not uncommon for them to borrow a few fringe or first team players in order to get some points on the board.
This isn't the same in every country, in certain places there are restrictions on the number of first team players who can appear for their reserves, in other places it's not allowed at all...
So how do you find out who's playing?
Well it's easier than it looks really. In most cases, lineups will be on Flashscore for these games, down to a certain level of course. In other cases, it's worth checking the social media of the team in question, as they'll sometimes cover reserve teams on a slow news day. English teams are particularly decent at giving their reserve / U23 development teams some air time on social media and announcing lineups. Once you've got the lineup, lets say for Bayern Munich II, don't look at the Bayern Munich II squad, look at the Bayern Munich squad. Head to Soccerway, find Bayern Munich and click squad and you can see a list of their first team players there. Compare the lineup you've got for Bayern Munich II to the Bayern Munich squad and there you have it, now you know what first teamers they've got in their squad.
Over the course of the next few days there are loads of teams in Norway with their reserves playing and over the course of the weekend we'll see loads in Germany and beyond, so it's well worth trying to find out who they've got helping them out. Slotting a first team, or a few first team players into the mix at this level can completely change how a side will play and the more you know, the more confident you can be with your bets.