Munich - With the title sewn up and important DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League semi-finals on the horizon, FC Bayern Munich could have been forgiven for taking it easy in their remaining Bundesliga fixtures.
To the outside eye, that may well have seemed the case prior to Saturday's 186th Bavarian derby against 1. FC Nuremberg. Coach Jupp Heynckes made no less than nine changes to the side which beat Juventus in midweek, affording several star names, among them captain Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller, a well-earned rest.
And yet the champions ran out comfortable 4-0 winners. Further proof, if any were required, of Bayern's incredible strength - not only in depth, but also in unity.
In a squad chock-full of internationals, the likes of Rafinha, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Diego Contento have found first-team appearances hard to come by but were rewarded for their patience with a rare starting berth against der Club - and all three performed like regulars.
"The [Nuremberg] match demonstrated the professional attitude of our players," said Heynckes, whose ability to keep all of his charges involved and enthusiastic has been one of his more impressive feats this season.
"Really positive group"
According to the 67-year-old, their greater-good approach reflects the overall atmosphere within the FC Bayern camp, where "everyone is determined to contribute to the club's success".
"We've got a really positive group this season, a true team," he continued. "Even in this form the team really seemed to click. It reflected the togetherness of the group here at FC Bayern."
The derby success may have meant little to Bayern in the grand scheme of things, but for the nine players who came in, the prospect of an appearance, extended or otherwise, in the upcoming Champions League clash with the mighty FC Barcelona made it well worth going the extra mile.
Jerome Boateng's marvellous scissor-kick to open the scoring was the mark of a player desperate to play a part at the business end of the campaign, while Mario Gomez, who is likely to replace suspended top scorer Mario Mandzukic in the first leg against Barca, did his confidence no harm with a cool finish to make it 2-0. Summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri also staked a claim for a spot in attacking midfield with a fine strike for Bayern's fourth.
"I'll be rotating again [in the DFB Cup against VfL Wolfsburg] on Tuesday because we have a massive schedule ahead of us," confirmed Heynckes, who is expected to revert to a full-strength XI with further silverware at stake. Nonetheless, with his team still performing on three stages, it's more than likely we'll be seeing plenty more of Bayern's supporting cast between now and the end of the season.
Andy James in Munich