It was a much quieter week on the loan front than usual, with Chelsea’s many youngsters scattered across the globe not quite hitting their regular highs over the past seven days.
Romelu Lukaku started as per usual for West Brom as they took on Stoke City but the two teams shared a goalless draw in a game devoid of incident. Lukaku had a couple of interesting moments including almost inadvertently scoring when a clearance hit him, and he was substituted with fifteen minutes of play remaining.
In The Championship, regulars Josh McEachran and Nathaniel Chalobah both started on the bench on Saturday for Middlesbrough and Watford respectively after recent bouts of illness (McEachran) and injury (Chalobah). Both came on during the second half of eventual defeats and their presence in the starting line-up was clearly missed, especially in the case of Chalobah, for whom Watford appear increasingly reliant on.
George Saville was twice an unused substitute for Millwall this week as they reached an FA Cup Semi Final by virtue of beating Blackburn Rovers before taking a big stride away from potential relegation worries by beating Charlton at the weekend. His playing time has been minimal so far but he should see some time as the games begin to pile up.
Sam Hutchinson was an unused substitute for Nottingham Forest away to Hull City, and despite his recent playing comeback isn’t in a position to contribute regularly for a week or two yet. Todd Kane, however, went straight back into the Blackburn Rovers team for a local derby against Burnley just 24 hours after rejoining the Lancashire side for a second loan spell and did well, playing 90 minutes in their 1-1 draw.
In League One, Patrick Bamford was fit enough to be restored to the MK Dons’ starting eleven and did very well in his 71 minutes against Tranmere. The Dons won 3-0 and may still harbour outside hopes of a playoff place.
For Billy Clifford and Sam Walker down at Colchester, survival is the order of the day and another four points gleaned from their fixtures this week will have gone a long way to helping their cause. Both started away to Coventry City on Wednesday, where a 2-0 lead was given up in the closing stages, but both of the Chelsea youngsters made their presence felt away to Bury on Saturday.
Colchester were up against it from the start, having had George Porter sent off after just four minutes, but they ground out a 2-1 win featuring another set piece assist for Clifford and another match-winning save from Walker, as he tipped a late header onto the crossbar. With so many teams having games in hand, the League One relegation battle will go down to the wire.
You can see highlights of that Colchester game HERE.
Heading overseas, all of Chelsea’s loanees in the Netherlands played on the same pitch on Saturday night as Kenneth Omeruo’s ADO Den Haag hosted Vitesse Arnhem, where Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta continue to impress.
Vitesse ran out comfortable 4-0 winners with centre-forward Bony scoring twice, with Omeruo’s excellence at dealing with very capable centre-forwards as a centre-back during the African Cup of Nations finally leading Den Haag to use him there, although Bony still excelled. All four Blues played the 90 minutes, Kakuta claiming an assist for a cheeky backheel to set up Mike Havenaar late on.
Amin Affane has returned to England to train and play with Chelsea’s Under-21 team after his disagreement with the Roda JC management.
In Germany, Jeffrey Bruma retained his place in Hamburg’s starting eleven and got another 90 minutes at right-back in a patchwork back four. Thorsten Fink’s side went down 1-0 to Augsburg, Bruma was booked, and their inconsistency could well cost them a place in Europe.
Werder Bremen’s inconsistency, meanwhile, threatens to put their Bundesliga status in peril, not that it’s particularly been the fault of Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian has been their outstanding player of the season and saw 90 more minutes on Saturday in a 2-2 draw with Greuther Furth, but it was one of his less effective outings of the campaign.
In Belgium, it was the final round of Jupiler League action before the convoluted league split, and Zulte Waregem ensured that their title credentials remained legitimate as they beat Mechelen 3-2 to stay within four points of leaders Anderlecht. Given that points are now halved at the split, they find themselves just two points adrift of top spot in the Championship group.
Thorgan Hazard played just 45 minutes against the mid-table side but will be leaned upon to step up as Essevee embark upon home and away fixtures against Anderlecht, Genk, Club Brugge, Lokeren, and Standard Liege.
In Spain, Lucas Piazon played the last ten minutes of Málaga’s 2-0 win against Porto in the Champions League, a result which ensured a last eight tie against Borussia Dortmund and the Brazilian remains one of just two Chelsea-owned players left in the competition.
He started the club’s league fixture against Espanyol and played well before being replaced after an hour, but it proved a European hangover as they went down 2-0 at home.
There was no European action for Thibaut Courtois as Atlético Madrid have long since relinquished their Europa League crown (at the hands of one Rubin Kazan…) but he lined up in goal as per usual away to Osasuna and made a handful of good saves en route to yet another clean sheet in a 2-0 win.
In La Segunda, Ulises Dávila worked his way back into Sabadell’s starting team for the trip to Hércules after his recent hand injury, but he and his team-mate fell to a 3-1 loss.
Jhon Pírez played the last five minutes for Leganés in their 1-0 win over Real Oviedo.
Matej Delac kept a clean sheet for Inter Zapresic in their 0-0 draw with RNK Split (and played well, bar one moment where he was bailed out by a defender), Cristian Cuevas was not a part of O’Higgins’ first team’s victory over San Marcos, but Wallace did make his 2013 bow for Fluminense in Campeonato Carioca action against Audax Rio, coming on as an injury-enforced substitute.
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