It was a slightly quieter seven days on the loan front after last weekend’s goal fest but there were still a number of notable performances this week, headlined by Lucas Piazon’s first start for Málaga.
The Brazilian made his opportunity count, laying on an early assist for fellow South American Javier Saviola in a home win over Athletic Bilbao. Piazon showed good craft and skill down the left before cutting the ball back towards the penalty spot, where Saviola scored the only goal of the game.
It was a timely performance from the teenager with Málaga in Champions League action this week, and he will hope that his display was enough to earn him consideration for the last sixteen tie away to FC Porto.
He wasn’t the only Chelsea loanee in creative form this weekend either, with Kevin De Bruyne picking up a second assist in as many weeks for a Werder Bremen side which continues to frustrate through inconsistency.
De Bruyne followed a sterling performance at Stuttgart last time out – a game in which he also scored – with another strong outing at home to Freiburg. He laid on the first of Nils Petersen’s brace with an excellent burst of pace and incisive pass, but the team in green still fell to a 3-2 home defeat against Freiburg.
The other Blues youngster in the Bundesliga, Jeffrey Bruma, missed out this weekend due to a suspension incurred following a red card against Dortmund last time out.
Romelu Lukaku and West Bromwich Albion had a weekend off due to their FA Cup elimination, but started the week brilliantly with a 2-0 win at Anfield which saw the Belgian score his tenth goal of the season.
In The Championship, Josh McEachran started both of Middlesbrough’s matches this week, first playing 75 minutes in a 1-0 win over Leeds which marked the club’s first points of 2013, before getting an hour in front of England manager Roy Hodgson at Selhurst Park in a heavy 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
He played well enough at times in both outings but was played wide on the left in the second of those fixtures, a role which doesn’t make the best use of his assets. Hodgson may have been better served by heading to St Andrew’s in Birmingham on Saturday, though, where Nathaniel Chalobah and Watford continued to dismantle all comers in the nPower Championship.
Their 4-0 demolition of Lee Clark’s young side featured heavy doses of another excellent Chalobah performance. He played a glorious pass in the build-up to Troy Deeney’s opener (which the video below omits) and earned considerable praise for his controlling midfield presence. He and the Hornets continue to go from strength to strength and are the form side in the promotion hunt.
Sam Hutchinson is still no closer to a return to fitness for Nottingham Forest, whilst Patrick Bamford missed MK Dons’ FA Cup elimination to Barnsley through an injury suffered in his last appearance in his first loan spell at the club.
In League One, Billy Clifford and Sam Walker faced a tough assignment as Colchester headed north to face second-placed Sheffield United and the gulf in class ultimately showed as the Blades eased past their Essex foes 3-0 at Bramall Lane.
Clifford extended his stay with the U’s until the end of the season and played in a holding midfield two, whilst Walker did well at times, making one or two smart saves, but might be disappointed with letting Kevin McDonald’s low strike from well out sneak into the bottom corner.
In the Netherlands, Patrick van Aanholt was Man of the Match and Tomas Kalas was restored to the starting eleven at right-back for Vitesse as they recorded a comfortable 2-0 home win over Groningen.
Van Aanholt has played exceptionally well for most of the season and has seen many respected pundits call for his promotion to the Dutch national team. He spoke after the game about his form and his future and indicated that he would like to remain in Arnhem for another season to continue playing and developing.
The third Chelsea player at the Gelredome, Gael Kakuta, missed out through injury.
Amin Affane made his playing return for Roda after a recent ailment of his own, getting half an hour off the bench at home to mid-table AZ Alkmaar, and helped to earn a point for the relegation threatened Kerkrade outfit.
Kenneth Omeruo, an African Champion with Nigeria last Sunday, was afforded an extended absence from his domestic return for ADO Den Haag and played no part in their 2-1 win over Heerenveen. Given that he played exclusively at right-back for the Dutch club but excelled at centre-back for the Super Eagles, his position upon returning will be interesting to see.
In Belgium, Thorgan Hazard and Zulte Waregem consolidated second place in the Jupiler League with a 2-0 win over Beveren. The younger Hazard hit the crossbar and went close with a free kick before being rested for the final five minutes. His return to his best will go a long way to helping Essevee secure a potential Champions League berth for next season.
Thibaut Courtois was once again rested for Atlético Madrid’s Europa League campaign, with manager Diego Simeone preferring to give Sergio Asenjo some playing time, but the Belgian is unlikely to receive a second successive winner’s medal this campaign as Los Colchoneros lost 2-0 at home to Rubin Kazan.
He returned to the starting eleven in the league on Sunday for an easy clean sheet in a 3-0 win at Valladolid.
Ulises Dávila missed Sabadell’s 3-1 home win over Real Madrid Castilla due to undergoing surgery on his hand, but is expected to be able to play with a protective cast on it in the coming weeks.
Jhon Pírez played another 90 injury-free minutes for Leganés in a 1-0 win over Getafe B which keeps the Madrid-based side very much at the top end of the Segunda B Group 1 table.
Matej Delac’s first league appearance for the best part of a year came as the Croatian league returned in earnest this weekend, but he was on the losing side for Inter Zapresic as they went down to an 88th minute defeat to NK Zadar. He is, at least, projected to be the regular first choice until the end of the season.
Finally, there was no playing time for Brazilian defender Wallace for Fluminense in their Copa Libertadores win away to Caracas on Thursday night.