We are now starting to hit the half-way mark of the season in most of the divisions around Europe and the league tables are taking shape. The image is becoming ever clearer about the prospects of our young hopefuls at their respective clubs as they look to gain greater experience and knowledge of the game. As always, it has been a mixed weekend for the City loanees but this weekend more than ever, there has been a whole heap of goals. 15 goals in 2 games for the City chaps in Italy, a 5-goal thriller in Spain and another 3 goals for play-off hopefuls NAC Breda.
However, despite the fun and games, it was a disastrous Sunday afternoon for the Manchester City duo out in Italy. England’s number one Joe Hart was in action for Torino as they travelled to title-challengers Napoli, where Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side were taught a lesson or five as Dries Mertens and co. ran riot at the San Paolo. Mertens, who is acting as the stand in replacement for the injured Arkadiusz Milik, set the ball rolling, scoring a hat-trick in a nightmare nine minutes for Joe Hart which saw Maurizio Sarri’s side 3-0 up after 22 minutes. Hart was left punching the ground in frustration especially after Mertens’ panenka penalty, and things got much worse in the 80th minute with the Belgian rounding off the day with his fourth of the match, one which is being tipped for goal of the season. Torino attempted a spirited comeback but Napoli were far too strong and were 5-3 winners on the day. Olivier Ntcham also featured for Genoa, replacing Miguel Veloso on the 29th minute, and saw his side lose a 3-1 lead at home to Palermo in an astonishing 4-3 thriller. However, Ntcham received some negative press after yesterday’s defeat, especially from Eurosport Italy, rating him the worst player on the pitch and saying that the holding midfielder had ‘very little defensive filter’.
On the other hand, it was a fine day for Jason Denayer who featured in Sunderland’s 1-0 victory at home to Watford. The Belgian natural centre-half has become a regular for David Moyes playing as a holding midfielder and on Saturday afternoon earned the plaudits once more with another strong showing. Denayer was composed on the ball and it was clear to see that he has a built a strong relationship with Didier N’Dong as the two in midfield broke down Watford’s attacks. He has become an integral part of Sunderland’s side this season and it raises questions as to whether he could possibly replace Fabian Delph or Fernando at the end of the season? In addition, it’s looking increasingly likely that Wilfried Bony will be on his way out soon, he was an unused substitute yet again for Stoke in their dramatic 2-2 draw at home to Leicester, and reports continue to link him with a move to China next month.
In the Championship, Aaron Mooy has continued to feature heavily for Huddersfield who look to challenge for a place in the play-offs. David Wagner’s side travelled to Norwich on Friday evening and came away with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Carrow Road. Mooy was particularly impressive once again as he picked up the Sky Bet’s Man of the Match award, and has continued to pick up rave reviews from Huddersfield supporters online. The Terriers are now up to 4th in the Championship.
— Daniel Garb (@DanielGarb) December 16, 2016
Over in Scotland, Patrick Roberts was an unused substitute for Celtic who defeated Dundee FC 2-1 at Celtic Park. The victory sees Brendan Rodgers’ side at the top of the SPL, 11 points clear of Rangers with two games in hand.
In Holland, Enes Ünal continues to make headlines with the young forward hitting double figures for the season. The 19-year-old Turkish international picked up his 10th goal of the season in FC Twente’s 2-1 defeat to AZ Alkmaar. Bersant Celina played the full 90 minutes for Twente while Yaw Yeboah was substituted on in the 82nd minute. Oleksandr Zinchenko was dropped to the bench for PSV’s big match with Ajax, the Ukrainian international was an unused sub in the 1-1 stalemate. In the second tier, Ashley Smith-Brown, Brandon Barker and Thomas Agyepong were once again in action for City’s affiliate club NAC Breda who are now back to winning ways after picking up a 3-1 victory at home to FC Emmen.
Meanwhile in Spain, Samir Nasri regained his spot in the Sevilla first team after a couple of months out with injury. The 29-year-old attacking midfielder was prominent in Sevilla’s devastating 4-1 victory at home to Malaga and produced one of the balls of the season (David Silva-esque) for Gabriel Mercado, who assisted Nasri’s fellow Frenchman Wissam Ben Yedder to see Jorge Sampaoli’s side retain 3rd position in La Liga. It was a quiet evening for Marlos Moreno who featured for a matter of seconds after he replaced ex-Liverpool winger Ryan Babel in the 90th minute in Deportivo’s 2-0 win at home to Osasuna.
Samir Nasri (a revelation for Sevilla this season) channeling his inner Francesco Totti pic.twitter.com/VRoLP3XKSf
— Mohamed Moallim (@iammoallim) December 18, 2016
‘Tis the football season to be jolly one might say, however this weekend it was certainly wasn’t for Joe Hart and Olivier Ntcham. The duo are expected to be back in action for Torino and Genoa for a final midweek set of fixtures which will round off the calendar year in Italy. For Nasri and Moreno in Spain and the contingent out in Holland, its time to settle down for Christmas and they won’t be back until early January. In contrast, for Denayer, Roberts and Mooy (probably not Bony) the period is just getting started.