The final rounds of fixtures are closing in fast, nowhere moreso than in England, and with the finish line in sight, this week’s Loan Report saw a number of Chelsea loanees square off against each other.
In League One, Patrick Bamford and the MK Dons headed east to take on Sam Walker, Billy Clifford, and Colchester United on Tuesday night, with three points imperative for both sides at either end of the table.
Bamford’s second-half strike – his third in seven appearances – helped seal a 2-0 win for the Dons and kept alive their faint hopes of a playoff place, whilst ensuring Colchester’s League One fate was still to be determined.
Saturday’s fixtures saw a 1-0 home defeat for Bamford and MK – despite the blond-haired forward hitting the post from close range – which ensured that they would not be able to secure a top six finish, whilst Walker kept a clean sheet and Clifford played 83 minutes in Colchester’s own scoreless draw against Shrewsbury Town.
The U’s now go into the last day next weekend away to Carlisle needing a point to ensure their safety, and for Walker it will be the second season in a row where he’s been involved in a final afternoon decided. Twelve months ago he helped Barnet survive, this time around he and Clifford will be playing their last game for Colchester with the stakes high.
There’s plenty still to play for in The Championship too, where Nathaniel Chalobah and Watford continue to have the Premier League in their sights. Their chances are slim though, especially after a 1-0 defeat to a Millwall team which somehow cannot find room for George Saville in their midfield.
Chalobah played 90 minutes at the Den and played a much better 90 minutes on Saturday against Todd Kane and Blackburn Rovers, when a 4-0 win for the Hornets kept them in with a shout should Hull City slip up. It did ensure a playoff place at worst, which is still a very impressive feat.
Kane and Blackburn, however, remain firmly embroiled in a relegation fight which will take two from as many as nine. Their defeat to Watford followed a 1-0 home win over Huddersfield in which Kane was perhaps lucky to not concede a penalty, but in general he seems to have been applying himself very well indeed.
The loanee head-to-heads continued unabated at Middlesbrough where Josh McEachran and Boro met Sam Hutchinson and Nottingham Forest, and Josh had one of his best games in recent times with a key role in the only goal of the game to secure a rare win for Tony Mowbray’s side.
Boro lost to Bolton on Saturday but Josh played well again and was denied another assist when the visitors had a goal disallowed. Hutch, meanwhile, limped out of Forest’s home draw with Barnsley suffering from a knee injury, but he should be available for the last two games and the playoffs should Forest reach them.
In the Premier League, Romelu Lukaku and West Brom have comparatively less to play for, but the Belgian still managed to influence their home draw with Newcastle by bravely playing Billy Jones in to add his third assist of the campaign.
Of the Chelsea youngsters playing overseas, Thorgan Hazard is the only one truly involved in a title chase, and it was another hectic week for him and Zulte Waregem. Having lost 4-3 to Standard Liege last weekend, Essevee came out on top by the same scoreline in midweek away to Club Brugge in a performance which set them up to go into Sunday’s hosting of Anderlecht in a great position.
The younger Hazard had another effective, busy performance against Anderlecht in a 2-0 win which leaves him and his team top of the table by a point at the midway point of the Championship playoff group.
In the Netherlands, Vitesse are chasing down Ajax at the top but were realistically too far back to hope to overhaul them even before this weekend’s defeat at Feyenoord. Patrick van Aanholt, Tomas Kalas and Gael Kakuta all played 90 minutes, with both defenders booked; Kalas for being adjudged to have handled a cross to concede a penalty when in reality it was nowhere near his arm.
Kenneth Omeruo and ADO Den Haag lost 2-1 at Groningen, with the Nigerian playing the full duration and collecting a yellow card.
In Spain, Thibaut Courtois kept his 18th league clean sheet of the season to help Atlético Madrid to all three points in a 1-0 win away to Sevilla which was as fraught and controversial as their red-card laden fixtures have tended to be of late. He made a string of important saves including one in stoppage time which ensured his team left with the win.
Lucas Piazón was a late substitute for a Málaga team which took a shellacking away to Valencia; the Brazilian entering the fray well after the 5-1 damage had been done.
Ulises Dávila got eight minutes as a sub for Sabadell in a 1-1 draw with Huelva, whilst Leganés managed without the services of Jhon Pírez to go a step closer to promotion after beating Marino 2-0.
In Germany, Kevin De Bruyne played 90 minutes for Werder Bremen in a 3-0 loss at home to Wolfsburg, a result which will likely see long-serving former player Thomas Schaaf depart as manager. De Bruyne is highly unlikely to be with Bremen next season, but whether he’s at Leverkusen, Dortmund or Chelsea is yet to be determined.
Jeffrey Bruma’s future is uncertain as well, and for the second week in a row he played no part for Hamburg, He spoke this week of needing regular football and the idea that he may very well get that in the Dutch league, whether owned by Chelsea or not.
In Croatia, Matej Delac and Inter Zapresic fell to the bottom of the league after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Istra 1961, and despite Delac’s poor form, Inter face a bleak future in the top flight.
In Brazil, Wallace played no part for Fluminense in a midweek win over Caracas but should feature in their weekend game which is played after the first iteration of this report goes live. Cristian Cuevas, meanwhile, played 90 minutes for O’Higgins against Universidad and impressed enough to earn a maiden call into the senior Chile squad for a South American players only friendly against Brazil this week.