The Loan Report: February 20-26

The recent hive of activity on the loan front cooled somewhat in the last seven days and the latest instalment of The Loan Report is, as a consequence, a much lower key affair.

Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had the highest profile week of anyone temporarily away from Stamford Bridge as he first kept a clean sheet for Atlético Madrid against Lazio to see Los Colchoneros into the last sixteen of the Europa League before taking on Barcelona on Sunday evening.

Courtois, who was called up to the senior Belgian squad again this week, had a solid outing despite the 2-1 defeat, which came courtesy of some excellent quick thinking and execution from Lionel Messi. The best player in the world took advantage of a quickly taken free kick to beat the opposing goalkeeper whilst he was lining up his wall.

Earlier in the first half Courtois had made an excellent save to deny Xavi’s well-placed set piece but was otherwise rarely asked a question of as Atléti’s vastly improved defence kept Barcelona at bay for big chunks of the match.

Meanwhile, compatriot Kevin De Bruyne added another assist to his resumé for the season as Genk returned to form in fine fashion, defeating Club Brugge 3-0 at the Cristal Arena.

The young winger – who joined Courtois in earning international selection – was a key figure throughout and laid on an assist for one of two strikes by emerging forward Christian Benteke.

Next door in the Netherlands, it was a quieter affair than usual. ADO Den Haag may feature Kenneth Omeruo and Milan Lalkovic amongst their ranks but neither was involved this weekend as Omeruo continues to await paperwork for a work permit whilst Lalkovic is sidelined through injury.

The Slovakian Under-21 international suffered a slight hamstring tear in training earlier this week and will be out for up to a month. He has returned to England for a week in order to undergo physiotherapy at Chelsea.

Over at Vitesse Arnhem, a promising season threatens to be falling apart at the worst possible time with a third consecutive defeat, this time at the hands of RKC Waalwijk.

Tomas Kalas played his usual 90 minutes in defence and responded well to a poor performance last week against FC Twente with a solid display, but there was no appearance for Dutch Under-21 call-up Patrick van Aanholt, who watched on from the bench.

Having been a part of the matchday squad last weekend, Ulises Dávila once more failed to make the cut this week despite scoring the opening goal in an astounding 7-4 win for Jong Vitesse over FC Utrecht.

The Mexican frontman missed the second string’s 1-1 draw against Heracles in midweek but will travel as part of a 16-man party headed to Morocco during the international break to play against the Moroccan Under-23 national team.

In Germany, Jeffrey Bruma was fit to return to Hamburg’s substitutes bench for their Friday night trip to Borussia Moenchengladbach but was not needed as Thorsten Fink’s side earned a credible 1-1 draw against a team in second place and unbeaten in some fifteen games.

Bruma now heads to London as part of the Dutch squad to play England at Wembley and is likely to once again partner Heiko Westermann at the heart of the HSV defence when league action resumes as replacement Slobodan Rajkovic has been increasingly error-prone in recent games.

Moving onto France, where Gael Kakuta started for Dijon away to Ajaccio but had a quiet game as the Burgundy club lost 2-1 to end a recent run of good form.

The visitors had the better of the first half but few stood out on the night and after Ajaccio scored twice early in the second half, it was an uphill task to get anything out of the game. Kakuta was on set piece duty all night but Dijon created little and he was substituted with ten minutes to go.

There was a double helping of action for the ever-present Ben Gordon at Kilmarnock this week but a pair of results to forget as a midweek 4-0 reverse at Dundee United was followed by Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Hibernian.

Opinion amongst supporters suggests that the young left-back hasn’t quite yet hit the heights of his first loan spell at Rugby Park but many attribute his below-par performances to the tactics used by Kenny Shiels offering little protection ahead of Gordon on the left wing, meaning that he is often forced to curtail his attacking instincts and typically defend one against one on the outside.

South of the border, Josh McEachran saw twenty minutes off the bench against Stoke City for Swansea City but Brendan Rodgers’ side had long since been 2-0 down and in replacing Scott Sinclair it was as much a change to rest key players as it was to get back into the game.

He completed 15 of 16 passes but otherwise there was little of note about his performance as Swansea turned their attentions to their next match.

In League Two, it was a mixed bag for Rhys Taylor this week as the Welshman kept another clean sheet on Wednesday night away to Gillingham but missed the weekend defeat to Bristol Rovers with an elbow injury picked up in the first outing.

Veteran backup Andy Warrington was less than convincing in attempting to keep out Rovers’ winner and Taylor should return between the posts next time out. He has the firm support of the fans and has led some to suggest that the Millers could have been as many as ten points better off had he been there all season instead of predecessor Conrad Logan.

At Yeovil, Sam Walker and his team-mates embarked upon one of the longest trips in English football as they headed to Carlisle United on Saturday and returned home with a 3-2 defeat.

Carlisle are exceptionally strong at home but Walker will certainly be disappointed with the manner of the winning goal – which came in stoppage time – particularly after his team had worked so hard to twice come from a goal behind.

A long ball bounced on the edge of the area and neither goalkeeper nor centre-back took charge of the situation, allowing Francois Zoko to steal possession and clinch three vital points.

Matej Delac completes the round-up as per usual, but will continue to serve as backup for Ceske Budejovice, who beat Bohemians Prague 3-1 on Sunday. New signing Michal Danek played in goal with Delac on the bench, relegating previous starter Zdenek Krizek to third choice.

It begs the question that if Delac is deemed to be the superior backup choice to Krizek, why was he not picked ahead of him for the first half of the season.

Such questions have unfortunately blighted Delac’s brief career to date, and there are no answers forthcoming.

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