Another good week at Middlesbrough, as Aitor Karanka's men gained four points from their two home league fixtures to maintain their spot in the middle of the glut that is the top of the Football League Championship. Two points separate eighth from first, that's the madness of England's second tier.
Kenneth Omeruo played all 180 minutes of the 1-1 and the 2-0 as he continued his excellent partnership with equally impressive Dani Ayala. Boro's 8 goals conceded in 11 leaves them tied with Sheffield Wednesday for the best defensive record in the division. Incidentally, ex-Chelsea homeboy Sam Hutchinson had been out for Wednesday for the better part of two months with a back injury, but he's now recovered and ready to help push the Owls on. But back to Boro.
While their excellent defensive record has been a boon for Omeruo, it's been a bust for Jamal Blackman who currently has little chance of unseating Konstantopoulos. The 20-year-old went as unused substitute in both matches. Meanwhile, Patrick Bamford's run of two consecutive starts was rudely ended by short-term illness and he had to miss the weekend's action. He took to Twitter to support both of his teams instead.
Get in reachyy #boro— Patrick Bamford (@Patrick_Bamford) October 4, 2014
What a pass, what a finish #class #cfc— Patrick Bamford (@Patrick_Bamford) October 5, 2014
Vitesse have apparently set themselves to the task of making up for their lack of goals and results so far in the calendar year of 2014, scoring half a dozen goals for the second straight league match and going undefeated for the fifth straight game in all competitions. Their 20 goals scored is only bested by league leaders PSV, through their 15 goals conceded is also almost as close to the other end of the Eredivisie spectrum.
Somehow neither Bertrand Traoré nor Wallace managed to get on the scoresheet, though they collected an assist and a goal-line clearance, respectively, while completing the full 90. Josh McEachran got six minutes off the bench to finally steam past that magical 30 minutes of total playing time mark for the season. Yay, Joshie!
Meanwhile, over at the annex, Stipe Perica covered himself in no glory getting sent off less than half an hour into the match with his team losing 2-0 already. NAC Breda would go on to lose 6-1 and they find themselves sitting just two points outside of the relegation zone. Perica does have 3 goals in 6 league appearances to lead the team, but will now serve a three-match ban.
Marco van Ginkel is of course injured (as is Marko Marin at Fiorentina), but Fernando Torres got another start as AC Milan finally won a game to move back into the top five. Torres did not score in his 60-odd minutes of action, but did have three shots (all off target) and remains still the only Milan striker to have found the back of the net in the first six league games. Jérémy Ménez and Keisuke Honda meanwhile have seven combined. It's all quite Chelsea-last-few-seasons-esque from the Rossoneri.
Unsurprisingly, Tomáš Kalas was put back into the stinky Cologne basket. Surprisingly, Lucas Piazon couldn't get any minutes either.
Unsurprisingly, Oriol Romeu continues to be a fixture in a terrible VfB Stuttgart team. Surprisingly, Thorgan Hazard cannot establish himself as anything more than a rotation option in a fairly good Gladbach team. The younger Hazard did get the start in the midweek Europa League draw against FC Zürich (just his second in all competitions) but was back on the bench for the weekend league clash at home versus fellow undefeated side Mainz 05. He almost still managed to score a winner in his 20 minutes of action only to be denied by an excellent save, and profligate Gladbach had to settle for yet another draw.
PREMIER LEAGUE ANTI-WENGER AGENTS:
The big news here are injury news unfortunately. As we chronicled already, Nathaniel Chalobah turned out to be just the first of two Chelsea players to be taken to hospital by paramedics last week; unlike Courtois who seems good to go, Chalobah will be sidelined for the next few weeks with a bruised windpipe. A bit further south, Victor Moses looked to be well on his way to yet another excellent performance, but had to leave the pitch in the 20th minute with what turned out to be a thigh injury. He, too, is set to miss a few weeks. Moses did pick up an assist before his injury, his third of the season. Only Cesc Fàbregas and Gylfi Sigurdsson have more (though several others, including the likes of Di María, Lamela, Tadić, and Henderson also have three).
In slightly healthier news, Ryan Bertrand remains entrenched as Southampton's first-choice left back, though the Saints lost the Pochettino Derby in a rather uninspiring 1-0 against Spurs at White Hart Lane. It was Bertrand's and Southampton's first loss since opening day, and they relinquished second spot in the Premier League to Manchester City as a consequence. Bertie did flash his Chelsea DNA with yet another goal-line clearance, doing his job as the man-on-the-post during an early Spurs' corner. Unfortunately, a reckless challenge on Kyle Naughton later left the Spurs man in a heap and out for possibly the next three months.
Christian Atsu experienced no such incidents, positive or negative, in his 45 minutes of work for Everton in their Europa League trip to somewhere in Russia. To be clear, Atsu got to play the first 45 minutes of the game, which is considerably worse than getting to play the second 45 of a game. His ineffectiveness was replaced by ex-Chelsea Romelu Lukaku at the half, while ex-Chelsea Samuel Eto'o eventually managed to grab Everton's late equalizer in this one. Atsu was nowhere near the squad for the weekend defeat at Old Trafford.
ELSEWHERE -- TOP FLIGHT:
Joao Rodriguez (SC Bastia), Islam Feruz (OFI Crete), and Cristián Cuevas (U. de Chile) didn't play a single minute, though Rodriguez was at least on the bench. Feruz did have valid reason this time around, as all Greek matches were canceled this weekend in remembrance of a fan who passed away. Kostas Katsoulis succumbed to his injuries two weeks after suffering them during crowd trouble at a third (!) division game. Can't we all just get along, people?
In Spain, Gaël Kakuta continued his renaissance though Rayo Vallecano hardly stood a chance even against a disinterested Barcelona. Kakuta seems a man reborn so far this season, even though he spent the vast majority of his time in this one tracking Barca's attacking full backs. Young Mario Pašalić only got the last 10 minutes as Elche looked to steal three points from Almeria on the road, but the hosts equalized anyway. The point gained was enough to move Elche out of the relegation zone however. For now.
ELSEWHERE -- LOWER LEAGUE:
In the division below and moving in the opposite direction, Ulises Dávila played the full game but failed to be the answer to Tenerife's desperate search for goals as they lost 2-0 away and fell back into the relegation zone. With just 5 goals in 7 matches, Tenerife have the second worst attack in the Spanish second division. Over in France, Matej Delač once again played and once again lost -- his and the team's fourth in a row, all by just one goal -- as AC Arles-Avignon remained rooted to the bottom of Ligue 2. Over in England, John Swift once again was back to being MIA for Rotherham but at least he was still called-up to the England U20 squad.