An impressive season of productivity from Chelsea’s loanees continued this week with a sixth goal of the campaign for Romelu Lukaku.
There was a double helping of domestic action in England this week and Lukaku began it with a bang, scoring for West Brom in a surprise defeat away to Swansea City. His goal proved to be little more than a consolation, but he took it well enough, reacting quickly to a loose ball to volley home on his right foot.
He was back on the bench for the weekend defeat to Stoke, playing 25 minutes as a second-half substitute, but despite his general lack of overall starts, Lukaku has one of the best goals-to-minutes-played ratios in the top flight so far this season.
Josh McEachran continues to play in central midfield for Middlesbrough but had an up and down week; first being on the winning side against Huddersfield on Tuesday (playing 90 minutes) before making a mistake to cost Boro a point in a 3-2 defeat at Birmingham City on Friday night.It wasn’t the worst of mistakes as Birmingham still had a lot to do, but he’ll be disappointed with the looseness of his pass for sure.
Ben Gordon didn’t line up against his club colleague for the hosts though, and is instead still featuring for the club’s Under-21 team. His playing time this week came in the Birmingham Senior Cup against a club called Continental Star. He played 90 minutes in what will be the low point of his loan spells to date, playing against a team of local part time footballers.
Nathaniel Chalobah and Watford continue to fly up the Championship standings though, recording a pair of 4-1 wins this week against Sheffield Wednesday (away) and Barnsley (home). He was afforded a well-earned rest in the last twenty minutes of the weekend fixture but is a big reason behind the Hornets’ rise into the playoff places.
Sam Hutchinson remains sidelined for Nottingham Forest but at least appears to be on course for a return around the new year.
It was FA Cup weekend in the lower leagues, and whilst Conor Clifford (illness) and Patrick Bamford (ankle) were absent from Crawley Town and Milton Keynes Dons’ victories, Todd Kane played at right-back for Preston North End and saw 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over Gillingham. All three will still be at their temporary clubs for third round weekend in early January and all have been given permission to play by Chelsea.
With Bristol Rovers out of the FA Cup, Sam Walker had league action away to Wycombe and was on the losing side as the Pirates lost 2-0 at Adams Park.
Moving overseas, Kevin De Bruyne was back to something near his most productive best for Werder Bremen, picking up a pair of assists in a 4-1 win at Hoffenheim. The first came from a floated free kick into the box from distance which Marko Arnautovic headed home from twelve yards, and the second was a perfect slide-rule pass at the end of a very slick spell of play as Bremen won the ball back high up the pitch and ruthlessly cut the hosts apart.
Jeffrey Bruma was back in the Hamburg starting eleven against Wolfsburg and lined up in an unfamiliar left-back position due to injury and suspension. He did well, playing the entirety of the 1-1 draw, and will hopefully have caught the eye of manager Thorsten Fink sufficiently to return to the starting lineup on a more regular basis.
In the Netherlands, Vitesse took on Roda which meant Patrick Van Aanholt, Tomas Kalas and Gael Kakuta lined up against their Chelsea team-mate Amin Affane. All four started the game and all generally did well as Vitesse won 3-0 to continue their title challenge. Affane was the only one substituted after giving a brave and battling performance for struggling Roda, but it was a day all about the home team.
Van Aanholt had a strong game at both ends of the pitch, whilst Kalas procided an assist for yet another Wilfried Bony goal. Kakuta, however, was considered to be the best player on the pitch by most home fans for an all-action display in which he proved a considerable presence in both attacking and defensive capacities.
Vitesse aren’t typically considered to be amongst the Dutch powerhouses but in a season where any one from five or six teams have a realistic shot at the title, they have been simply superb in the first half of the season and have the squad to be able to stay in the picture for the rest of the campaign.
Video for this match will be added when available.
Kenneth Omeruo and ADO Den Haag went down 2-0 away to FC Twente with the Nigerian getting 90 minutes against one of the best teams in the league.
In Belgium, Zulte-Waregem’s recent results have been anything but enthralling, but the points continue to come in and keep them second in the league.
Thorgan Hazard played the last thirteen minutes of their goalless draw with Beerschot this weekend as a substitute after being rested for a midweek cup win over Charleroi, and will be hoping to re-find the form which propelled him to wider attention earlier this season. However, it’s important to remember that this is his first full season in top division football and there will be the usual fluctuations in performance that come with that.
In Spain, it was derby day for Thibaut Courtois as Atlético headed to the Berbabeu, but unfortunately for the Belgian number one, Los Colchoneros returned home pointless after losing 2-0. There was quite frankly nothing he could do about Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational free kick which helped secure victory for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Ulises Dávila started for in-form Sabadell against Numancia but the Harlequistas suffered a first defeat in five league games. The Mexican started but was unable to have the same sort of impact he’s had in recent weeks.
Jhon Pírez, as usual, didn’t play for Leganés.
Finally, in Portugal, it was Cup weekend but neither Milan Lalkovic nor Matej Delac started for Vitória Guimarães away to Maritimo, but Lalkovic came on during extra time and took what could have been the clinching penalty during the eventual shootout, but failed to convert. Fortunately, Guimarães prevailed and go into the last eight of the competition.