After Jack Byrne, Manu Garcia and David Faupala returned to Manchester last week after their season long loan deals were cut short, City’s continuing cycle of loaning players out was soon replenished with the announcement of the outgoing loans of defensive duo Pablo Maffeo and Angeliño to a title challenging Girona in the second tier of Spanish football. With the winter break drawing to a close across Europe and the FA Cup providing a much needed or in many cases perhaps unwanted distraction from the league in English football, for City’s crop of current loan stars it was however business as usual last weekend as they continue apply their trade away from Manchester.
In the FA Cup, whilst Stoke fell somewhat surprisingly to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Championship side Wolves, City loanee Wilfried Bony played no part after his inclusion in the Ivory Coast squad for the 2017 African Nations Cup. In contrast, Belgian defender Jason Denayer was involved in FA Cup third round action and in a game that produced little to comment on, he individually earned numerous earn plaudits for his personal display for Sunderland. Making his first senior appearance in the heart of the Sunderland defence after being used largely as a holding midfielder for most of this season, the Chronicle Live highlighted Denayer’s impressive individual display; producing a number of ‘heroic interceptions and commanding headers’ whilst dealing with crosses ‘adroitly and with composure’. With Sunderland centre-back Lamine Kone away on AFCON duties; Pep will surely be pleased to see Denayer given more first-team opportunities in a natural centre-back role for Sunderland in upcoming league games.
Aside from the Premier League, moving away from Premier League clubs in FA Cup action and it was Huddersfield Town player of the month for December, Aaron Mooy, who sparked a second half goal rush with a further three goals coming seventeen minutes after appearing as a second half substitute and guiding The Terriers into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 4-0 home victory over League One side Port Vale. With the shoe on the other foot, George Glendon at fellow League One side Fleetwood Town played 77 minutes for his club as they did however fare somewhat better than their fellow League One battlers as Uwe Rosler’s men took their tie against Bristol City to a replay with a 0-0 draw away from home.
Crossing over to Spain now and with Eliaqium Mangala in line to start in Valencia’s Monday night tie and must win away fixture to Osasuna, fellow relegation battlers and temporary home of Colombian forward Marlos Moreno, Deportivo la Coruña made it four games unbeaten with a 1-1 draw away at Espanyol. Despite the recent good form of the club, Moreno continues to struggle for game time and remained an unused substitute in a week where it was reported the Colombian is feeling under pressure to perform. Heading to the top of the Spanish La Liga and for all of his off the field antics of late, Samir Nasri let his football do the talking for Sevilla as he shone – playing a full ninety minutes and producing an impressive individual display in a 4-0 away victory over Real Sociedad.
Meanwhile in the Spanish Second Division and Girona made it four wins in five league games as number 25 Pablo Maffeo played a full 90 minutes in the club’s 2-0 away victory over Real Zaragoza to keep their hopes of promotion alive. There was however no starting spots for fellow new boy Angeliño or even Pablo Marí who has featured regularly for Girona throughout the latter part of the calendar year as they keep up their charge towards the Spanish Premier Division. Fellow City loanee Bruno Zuculini, who is also out in Spain and playing for second division side Rayo Vallecano, played no part in Rayo’s 0-0 draw and was not even listed amongst the clubs substitutes for the tie.
In Serie A, Joe Hart once again featured for Torino and kept a clean sheet after a week that has seen the Englishman repeatedly linked with a move back to his homeland. Playing a full 90 minutes, Hart’s Torino were unlucky not to come away with all three points after dominating their opponents in their eventual 0-0 draw against Sassuolo for large parts of the game. In Australia it was one on, one off for Melbourne City during their 1-0 home victory over Western Sydney Wanderers with City loanee Anthony Caceres coming on as a late second-half substitution whilst Luke Brattan played 71 minutes before an eventual substitution.
Likewise with the Dutch Eredivisie still enjoying their Winter breaks, NAC Breda’s trio of City stars Thomas Agyepong, Ashley Smith-Brown and Brandon Barker were therefore not in action this weekend, nor would Shay Facey have been at Heerenveen. Similarly the wait continues for City’s fellow loanees for a return to competitive Eredivisie football, as Oleksandr Zinchenko failed to feature in PSV’s 2-1 friendly victory over Freiburg whilst Facey’s Heerenveens’ planned Saturday friendly against German side VfL Wolfsburg was cancelled. Finally in FC Twente’s club friendly against FC Erzgebirge Aue, Bersant Celina, Enes Unal and Yaw Yeboah all made first-half appearances before a heavy second-half rotation led to their substitution in a subsequent 1-1 draw between both teams.