A busy Easter weekend across Europe has seen plenty of action on the loan front as Chelsea’s young professionals approach the end of their temporary spells elsewhere.
The landscape is well known now, of course, with some players very much first choice at their respective clubs, and others struggling for consistent playing time. Neil Bath, academy manager, spoke this week about important decisions which will be made over the summer when England’s youth structure is overhauled, and lessons learned from this season will impact how the club proceeds next season.
For some, like Thibaut Courtois, such moves are a necessity. At the majority of clubs, the young Belgian would already be a first choice and a star attraction, but at Chelsea he remains (for now at least) behind Petr Cech.
He has been in astonishly good form all season long for Atlético Madrid and this week helped his team qualify for the last four of the Europa League. A 2-1 win away to Hannover – the hosts’ first home defeat in eleven months – saw Courtois turn in a dominant and confident display full of composure and focus that belies his age.
Unfortunately, Diego Simeone’s team then lost Sunday’s league game 2-0 at Levante and the result puts a huge dent in their aims of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
At least when goalkeepers are loaned out, they’re either first choice or they’re not playing at all. Unlike outfielders, who are prone to squad rotation, the situation is a very clear one.
Rhys Taylor and Sam Walker have been ever-present (when fit) since moving to Rotherham and Yeovil in January and both had productive Easters. Taylor was exceptional on Saturday in a 2-1 win at AFC Wimbledon, making two outstanding saves to earn three points that kept the Millers in the promotion picture.
Under new manager Steve Evans on Monday, Welshman Taylor retained his place at home to Cheltenham and kept another clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town, who have struggled for goals of late.
Walker, meanwhile, continued his impressive recent form with a good display in Yeovil’s 3-1 win over Rochdale which all but secured their survival for another season. He was only beaten by an own goal late in the game, but on Monday went down 3-1 in horribly wet conditions at Notts County, including a controversial late goal where it appeared he had the ball under control only for Lloyd Sam to knock it loose.
On the flip side, of course, we have the unfortunate case of Matej Delac. The Croatian has played barely half a dozen times since leaving Inter Zapresic at the end of the 2009-10 season and a player who was once rated so highly is little more than an afterthought in his home country, having been overtaken in national team consideration by Ivan Kelava.
Delac was once again on the bench for Ceske Budejovice this week, watching starter Michal Danek keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Teplice.
In Germany, a week after it looked like Jeffrey Bruma’s short-term future at Hamburg bode less than brilliantly, the Dutchman was back in Thorsten Fink’s starting eleven due to an injury crisis.
With Dennis Diekmeier and Jacopo Sala both injured, Bruma started at right back against Leverkusen and played well as HSV picked up another important point in their battle against the drop, maintaining a two-point gap with five games to go.
In the Netherlands, everyone had the weekend off, so there was no action for Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt or Kenneth Omeruo, nor was there any time for Milan Lalkovic.
The Slovakian has reportedly returned to England and ended his brief stay in Den Haag after a difference of opinion with club officials. Having played barely fifteen minutes since joining on transfer deadline day, the move was a clear failure and Milan’s return to England is the best approach for all parties.
Ulises Dávila played 90 minutes for Jong Vitesse in their 4-2 defeat to Jong AZ. Shortly after the match, Vitesse’s fitness coach Han van den Berg spoke of how long it typically takes Mexican footballers to adapt to Europe and what to expect from Dávila in the coming 18-24 months. You can read that HERE.
Gael Kakuta’s indifferent form continued in France as Dijon lost 2-0 at home to Nancy, leaving the club just two points clear of a congested relegation zone. After some sensational performances, the playmaker’s game has tapered off a little of late, and he’ll need to pick himself up in the closing weeks of the campaign to help ensure Ligue Une survival.
Josh McEachran spent Good Friday on the bench as Swansea lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle, and he’ll hope to feature in some form on his return to West London on Wednesday as Brendan Rodgers’ team take on QPR.
Kevin De Bruyne, however, assisted both goals for Genk against Gent in the Belgian League top playoffs. It increasingly appears that the club goes as he goes, and they will be relying on him to take them as far as possible for next season. You can also enjoy a cheeky bit of skill he pulled off during the match.
Ben Gordon and Kilmarnock were handsomely thrashed 6-0 by Celtic on Saturday as their opponents secured the SPL title in a party atmosphere at Rugby Park. With Killie’s season already effectively over and a trophy in the bag, it came as little surprise to see them overwhelmed by a team marching towards the title and little comment can really be offered on this particular match.
Finally, there was a pair of defeats for Reece Loudon at Potters Bar Town. The young left sided player featured against Thamesmead Town but was an unused sub against Ilford.