Another week, another roundup. It's coming down to the home stretch for many of the teams our youngsters are out on loan to, and for many of them these games will be huge in either qualifying for Europe next year or staving off relegation. The good thing for our youngsters is that most of them are now pretty firmly entrenched into their roles for the run in, and in almost all of their cases that involves playing regularly.
- Thibaut Courtois - Courtois has been fantastic for the majority of this season, and this week was no different. The young Belgian was in action twice this week. Atletico hosted Besiktas in the Europa League midweek and won 3-1, putting themselves in the opposite position that we are in for their 2nd leg game in Turkey. Courtois was solid when called upon, and the highlights of that game can be found here. There's probably not too much he could have done about that goal. On the weekend, Atletico managed to blank Granada. The highlights from that one are right here. Atletico now sit only 2 points from the European places in Spain and are potentially going to be a favorite for Europa depending on the outcomes of the Manchester games this week. Keep up the good work Thibaut.
- Ben Gordon - Gordon put in another solid 90 minutes this past weekend as Killie drew Inverness 1-1. Gordon was generally very solid throughout the game, but he really didn't do anything to get us too excited for his future. He'll have the opportunity to play in a cup final over the weekend as Killie face of with Scottish leaders and Chelsea's NYC opponent, Celtic.
- Josh McEachran - Josh was on the bench, but he wasn't called upon as Swansea defeated City 1-0 at home. I honestly can't fault them for his lack of action, the Swansea midfield is very, very good. I'd imagine most of his minutes in the final ten games this season will come as a substitute, but 2-3 starts would seem to be coming as well.
- Gael Kakuta - Kakuta and Dijon faced off against the club sitting atop Ligue 1 for the second straight weekend. After drawing last weekend, Dijon fell to PSG 2-1 on what was essentially the last touch of the contest. Kakuta put in an excellent display though. After playing 45 minutes on each wing last weekend, Gael played the full 90 in a much more central role this week. He was very impressive, and he was especially effective in delivering set pieces into the box. The Dijon goal actually came off of a corner, where the well placed free kick was flicked to the far post before finding the net. The highlights can be found here. I'd fully expect Kakuta to start every game from this point on unless he needs a rest as Dijon are very much in relegation danger. Next up for Dijon...Marseille.
- Milan Lalkovic - Lalkovic was back on the bench again this weekend, and he came on for stoppage time with his club leading 2-0. It's pretty hard to gather anything from a cameo that short, but it's nice to see he's healthy again. Maybe Graham will get his chance to see him live after all.
- Kenneth Omeruo - Unlike Lalkovic, Omeruo started the game at right back for the second consecutive week. I have to say I was surprised to see him slotting into that role initially, as I've never seen him play anywhere other than center back. After watching both games though, I certainly see why. He was again very good, and he's certainly got the tools to be a real handful wherever he's placed in the defense. This one could easily turn out to be the best buy any club made during the January window and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in action for the Nigerian senior national side very soon.
- Tomas Kalas - Kalas was again excellent as Vitesse won 3-1. There was very little to note about the young center back's performance, but that's usually a good thing when we're talking about center backs. The only real chance for the opposition came from the penalty spot (which they converted), so it's awfully hard to find much to knock Kalas for.
- Patrick van Aanholt - PvA was pretty good on the afternoon for Vitesse. He seems to be settling in nicely, but the Vitesse midfield was pretty lousy in their attempts to play the ball to the wing in this one. There's going to be games like that in the attacking end, so it's good to see PvA didn't let that affect his defensive duties.
- Ulises Davila - Davila was not involved in the first team fixture this weekend, he was instead a starter again for the reserve squad. He reportedly played well for the 75 minutes of action he saw, although I didn't see this one.
- Kevin De Bruyne - Quiet weekend for the Belgian, as Genk had the weekend off. He'll be back in action next week.
- Matej Delac - Delac was again the 2nd choice keeper. Nothing to see here.
- Rhys Taylor - Taylor had a pair of games to report on this week. He had a pretty costly error that led directly to the Crewe goal in the midweek draw, it was probably the biggest mistake he's made this season. It happens from time to time, and he certainly bounced back well with a solid clean sheet over the weekend. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see this loan deal become a permanent move this summer.
- Sam Walker - Walker also had two games this week. He was excellent against MK Dons midweek, keeping the ball out of the net for the entire contest despite loads of pressure. He then allowed only a single goal as Yeovil defeated Oldham on the weekend, although he probably could have been a bit more decisive and closed down the header. It was a good week for Sam though, as the Yeovil defense left him with a lot of work to do in the two contests.
That's it for this week, but we'll have a few fun ones to report on next weekend. It will be fun to see Gordon in a cup final, and Josh may actually get to see the pitch against Fulham. The Marseille/Dijon contest will be a fun watch, and Lalkovic and Omeruo will get to show their wares against Ajax. Throw in a chance for Courtois to lead his club into the final 8 of the Europa League and Vitesse giving us a Friday contest and we're in for a fun and busy week. Stay tuned...