It’s an all-action end to the season on the loan front as a busy Easter period led straight into another packed schedule of action for Chelsea’s young professionals.
Games are increasing in importance and it’s always interesting to see how players handle the increase in pressure when the stakes are high. Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, for example is excelling just when his team need him the most.
With Genk involved in the top tier playoffs in the Belgian league, they’re facing top quality opposition every week in search of a Champions League place. Before their weekend trip to Anderlect, De Bruyne had been involved in twelve of their last sixteen goals (scoring two and creating ten), and he was integral again on Saturday night.
Genk won 3-1 at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, with De Bruyne pulling all the strings from his central midfield role. He laid on the first goal for Christian Benteke and was on a different level to anyone else on the pitch, earning a standing ovation from the home supporters when substituted in stoppage time.
You can watch highlights of the game HERE, although they’re unlikely to do justice to the most in-form player in the league at the moment.
Over in Germany, Jeffrey Bruma continued to deputise at right-back for Hamburg, who picked up another three points in their battle against relegation with a 1-0 win over Hannover.
Visiting boss Mirko Slomka looked to have his team exploit the young Dutchman, playing out of position, but Bruma held his own, and with diligent help from winger Ivo Ilicevic put together a strong performance to secure the clean sheet.
Bruma is amongst a number of versatile defenders on Chelsea’s books and on Sunday in the Netherlands, two more of them went head to head in Eredivisie action.
Vitesse’s Tomas Kalas and ADO Den Haag’s Kenneth Omeruo both started at the Gelredome in a match the hosts won 1-0, but it was Nigerian Omeruo who impressed the most. Still playing in a largely unfamiliar right-back role, he showed excellent defensive ability and looked to get forward as best he could, evoking comparisons to Branislav Ivanovic.
It came on the back of his first goal for the club in Thursday night’s 3-0 win over Groningen. He headed home from a second-half corner to endear himself to the home fans even further. You can see the goal HERE.
Kalas, meanwhile, had a less spectacular game by his own standards but he wasn’t poor by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s an indication of just how good he’s been this season that anything not up to his usual standards is noted. He did, of course, feature in Thursday’s win away to VVV Venlo.
Patrick van Aanholt was not involved in either match, whilst Milan Lalkovic has returned to England after his brief spell in Den Haag. There was no Jong Vitesse fixture this week, so no action for Ulises Dávila either.
Moving onto France, where Dijon and Gael Kakuta continue to struggle. After a brief spell of excellent form which coincided with Kakuta’s arrival in Burgundy, they are now three without a win and lost 1-0 at Sochaux on Sunday to leave them just a point clear of safety.
Opponents will doubtless have targeted Kakuta as the team’s most potent attacking threat and attempted to take him out of the game and that, coupled with his natural predisposition to drift in and out of games, has contributed to his recent inconsistency.
That said, he is still young and his loan spell has to be seen as a success overall given his brilliant beginning. Hopefully he can get back to his best for the crucial final few games.
Thibaut Courtois came up against Cristiano Ronaldo and the might of Real Madrid in midweek and picked the ball out of the net four times, but there was only one he could’ve done anything with as Jose Mourinho’s team ran roughshod over yet another La Liga opponent.
The Belgian was back to his best again on Sunday away to Rayo Vallecano, keeping his twentieth clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 win.
Back on domestic shores, Josh McEachran sat on the bench for a pair of Swansea matches which finished 3-0, firstly in defeat away to QPR before a weekend win over Blackburn.
The latter ended a recent winless run for the Swans but went a long way to ensuring Premier League survival which, once assured, should see Josh get some more minutes in the final couple of games.
In League One, Yeovil and Sam Walker were on the end of a 6-0 hiding at home to Stevenage on Saturday in a match impacted by an early red card to former Chelsea midfielder and current Glover Michael Woods.
Nobody came out of the match with any credit on the home front but Sam can hardly have been blamed for any of the goals directly, with the best anyone able to level at him being an uncertainty in dealing with crosses.
One step down in League Two, and there was also defeat for Rhys Taylor and Rotherham away to promotion-chasing Shrewsbury Town, who continued their unbeaten home record.
Rhys was beaten by two excellent strikes and was rounded for the other goal after his defence had gone missing, forcing him to come off his line. The defeat all but ends Rotherham’s slim playoff hopes.
Reece Loudon started his first game for Potters Bar Town, but they lost 1-0 away to Tilbury Town.
It was Scottish Cup weekend north of the border meaning no action for Kilmarnock and Ben Gordon, which just leaves Matej Delac to check in on. He continues to be a sub for Ceske Budejovice, as we’ve come to expect.