The games are coming thick and fast as the conclusion of the 2012-13 season gets ever closer, and for Chelsea’s ever-large batch of young loan stars, there is still a considerable amount to play for.
For Thorgan Hazard and Zulte-Waregem, a chance of a first ever title for the small West Flanders club is very much within reach, and the younger brother of the supremely talented Eden has been doing his level best to make it a reality.
He was in sterling form at the weekend, scoring a stonking free kick to grab his fourth league goal of the season, but unfortunately Essevee lost 4-3 to a Standard Liege team clearly capable of scoring stupendous long shots of their own.
Just four points separate four teams at the top of the Jupiler League with three of ten playoff rounds in the books, and Zulte themselves are still well in the mix. With everyone playing against each other in the Championship group, the league title will almost certainly come down to the final day of the season.
Next door in the Netherlands, a cluster of Chelsea representatives are doing their level best to take Vitesse Arnhem into the Champions League for the first time ever, and indeed, secure a first ever Eredivise championship. Patrick van Aanholt, Tomas Kalas and Gael Kakuta have each played important roles throughout what has been a fine season at the Geldredome, and with Van Aanholt fit again after a shoulder problem, all three lined up away to Roda JC on Saturday.
They will doubtless view the eventual 3-3 scoreline against the club at which Amin Affane spent the first half of this season as two points dropped, having led at one point by three goals to nil, but are five points behind leaders Ajax with four games to go. All three Blues played 90 minutes are were generally their usual selves; Kakuta lively and involved, Van Aanholt energetic along the left, and Kalas capable at right back without ever looking as comfortable as he does in the middle.
Kenneth Omeruo and ADO Den Haag continued their recent bout of poor form with a 3-1 defeat at home to FC Twente, and appear set for a mid-table finish.
Back in England, things are still very much up for grabs in and around the football league, although Nathaniel Chalobah and Watford may now have to settle for a playoff berth if they are to achieve their aim of Premier League football next season.
Chalobah played the full 90 minutes of the Hornets’ 3-2 defeat at Peterborough on Saturday – a game in which very few Watford players impressed – and that result combined with three points for Hull leaves Gianfranco Zola’s men chasing a six-point deficit with just twelve points to play for. They will likely enter the playoffs as favourites to join Cardiff and Hull in ascending to the top flight, but the England Under-21 international may not be the only Blues youngster involved.
Sam Hutchinson and Nottingham Forest also harbour hopes of a top six finish, although a 3-0 defeat away to Cardiff without the injury-hit defender did their chances no good whatsoever. Hutch’s involvement will fluctuate in the final weeks of the season with Forest manager Billy Davies blessed with a number of options for some very big fixtures.
For Josh McEachran and Middlesbrough, a campaign which promised much has ultimately gone very dismally south since the turn of the year. The creative midfielder got 20 minutes as a sub at home to Brighton as Boro lost 2-0 to leave themselves eight points short of the playoff zone.
Todd Kane and Blackburn Rovers picked up a first league win since February 9th as they defeated Derby 2-0 at Ewood Park on Saturday to take a huge stride away from relegation danger. The situation is extremely tight though, and the responsibility Kane will be entrusted with by manager Gary Bowyer in the last four games will serve the youngster well going forward.
George Saville and Millwall find themselves in relative mid-table safety and the midfielder finally made his full debut for the Lions against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. By all accounts he struggled to assert himself – not at all surprising given the scarcity of his involvement since joining – and he was not involved at Wembley on Saturday as Millwall were embarrassed on and off the pitch in their FA Cup Semi Final.
In League One, Colchester United had a chance to ensure survival at the weekend, but a 3-1 defeat away to Notts County (which made it a fine weekend for the Kiwomya family) ensured that they can still be caught by Scunthorpe United for the time being. Sam Walker played as usual in goal, whilst Billy Clifford was rested, presumably with Tuesday’s home game against Patrick Bamford’s MK Dons in mind, where a win would secure their place in the division for another season.
Bamford and company lost 2-0 at Leyton Orient in a performance which bore all the hallmarks of a team with nothing left to play for.
There was no game for West Brom and Romelu Lukaku due to Wigan’s involvement in the FA Cup.
In Spain, Thibaut Courtois edged closer to the 20 clean sheets mark for the season with another shutout in Atlético Madrid’s 5-0 rout of Granada. The Belgian had a few saves to make but it was a very comprehensive victory overall for the hosts.
Lucas Piazón played no part for Málaga as they dramatically exited the Champions League at the hands of Dortmund in midweek and saw just ten minutes of their 1-0 win against Osasuna on Saturday night, confirming his status as a bit-part player whilst on loan down on the Costa del Sol.
In La Segunda, Ulises Dávila celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier in the week with a start for Sabadell against Huesca and had an impressive game which was capped with an 88th minute assist which appeared to have earned his team a point in a topsy-turvy game, but they ultimately lost by four goals to three.
Jhon Pírez returned to the Leganés squad after a recent absence and saw 20 minutes as a sub against Salamanca but did little of note in their 1-1 draw.
In Germany, Kevin De Bruyne and Werder Bremen drew 2-2 away at Fortuna Dusseldorf and there was an assist for the superb Belgium schemer. His solo run finished with a timely nudge into the path of Zlatko Junuzovic, who swept home from close range.
Jeffrey Bruma was not involved for Hamburg in their 2-1 win against Mainz.
In Croatia, Matej Delac faced Dinamo Zagreb; the Croatian giants he first exploded onto the scene against as a 16 year-old saving a penalty to ensure a 1-0 win for lowly Inter Zapresic. This time around, he didn’t fare so well as Inter lost 2-0 against the runaway leaders, but he put in a respectable display as usual.
Finishing off in South America, Wallace played no role for Fluminense away to Gremio, but did feature in their Rio derby defeat against Flamengo, starting at right-back. Cristian Cuevas played all 90 minutes for O’Higgins of Chile in a 2-1 win at Rangers.