Another week another chance to shine for Barça players around the world. Here is a glance at Barça main prospects (on-loan players and buy-back transfer options) and at how they performed this weekend.
Denis Suárez - Villarreal CF - Buy-Back Transfer
Played 78 minutes
La Liga - Day 22 - Villarreal 1-0 Granada (30/1)
It is always difficult to keep a high pace during a long time. Villarreal's first half of the season has been tremendous, with a deserved 4th place and legitimate hopes of seeing European football at Madrigal next year. The winter hasn't been so king to the Yellow Submarine. It's a relative statement, as Villarreal hasn't lost a single game in 2016. But more than pure statistics and results, it is the fashion in which they obtain them that should be acknowledged with care. With only two wins away from home, Granada was not the most threatening opponent Villarreal has ever host this season. Yet, Denis Suarez and his teammates had to put a lot of effort in to win by the most narrow margin, 1-0. A penalty from Bruno Soriano was necessary to get the three points. As for Denis Suarez, he was replaced after 78 minutes by Nahuel Leiva.
Adama Traoré - Aston Villa - Buy-Back Transfer
Did not play (broken bone injury)
FA CUP - 4th Round - Aston Villa 0-4 Manchester City (30/1)
Each week that passes gets Adama closer to his return. And Aston Villa need him badly, although they could not hope for much more against Manchester City last weekend. The Citizens devoured their opponents to go through to the next round in the FA Cup. Despite the fact they were playing at home, Remi Garde's Villains weren't able to score a single goal, and spent the game waiting for it to finish before the score was too embarrassing. Things started off realy quick with the Nigerian prodigy Kelechi Iheanacho scoring twice in the first quarter of the game (4', 24'). He added a third one in the second half (74'), before to give an assist to Raheem Sterling for City's fourth goal (76'). A real one-man show from the Nigerian, who qualified nearly himself the Citizens for the next round. Aston Villa can comfort themselves thinking that they've been unbeaten in Premier League for three games now, before to host West Ham on Tuesday, for a crucial game.
Alen Halilovic – Sporting Gijón – On Loan
La Liga - Day 22 - Valencia 0-1 Sporting (31/1)
Played 14 minutes
What if Sporting Gijon saved themselves from relagation? What seemed as an impossible return a few weeks ago is now taking form, thanks to the uprise of the Asturians. In the last two weeks they won twice, against relatively stronger sides like Real Sociedad (5-1) and Valencia (0-1). The latter is not doing so well at the moment. Since he took commands, English coach Gary Neville struggles to get a win in La Liga. He only could celebrate a victory in Copa del Rey - two actually - before to face Barcelona this week, at Camp Nou, on Wednesday. At home in Mestalla, Valencia could hardly make more than 3 consecutive passes, and conceeded a silly penalty that Sanabria converted (50'). From that point, it was an attack-defense from Neville's players, with many approximations and a lot of chances blown up. The best example was Negredo, who had the opportunity, at least twice in the last 20 minutes, to equalise, but missed the target by a large margin. Sporting tried to counter-attack and subbed on Halilovic to conserve the ball and gain some time. The young Croatian did it very well and respected his part rigorously.
Martín Montoya - FC Internazionale/Real Betis - On Loan
Coppa Italia - Semi-finals - Juventus 3-0 Inter (27/1) & Serie A - Day 22 - AC Milan 3-0 Inter (31/1)
Did noy play (on the bench + not in the squad)
Right now, Martin Montoya must probably wonder what went through his mind when he decided to join Inter on loan. Although Italia is famous for its defensive tradition, therefore being an ideal place for defenders to improve and to blossom, there is one condition to all of that: playing. And this is exactly what Montoya was not doing, unfortunately. So far in 2016, Montoya has been playing 76 minutes. Once again in the first leg of Coppa Italia semi-finals against Juventus at Juventus Stadium, he spent 90 minutes on the bench, dreaming of better times.
That is why Martín decided to change of air, and is about to sign his contract with Real Betis for the remaining of his loan. Back to La Liga, a league he is familiar with, he will face a very difficult challenge as Real Betis are now looking to stay in La Liga and avoid relegation. Currently at 14th position with only 2 points more than 18th Granada and 5 points more than 20th Levante, the race is going to be very tight probably until the end. An exciting perspective though for a player to which Roberto Mancini never really gave his trust. In Real Betis, Montoya will have to fight for his place alongside the experienced Francisco Molinero and an Italian youngster on loan from Fiorentina, Cristiano Piccini. In order to get back to Barça with opportunities to be used by Luis Enrique next season, Montoya needs to play. Let's hope this time he made the right call.
Cristian Tello – Fiorentina – On Loan
Serie A - Day 22 - Genoa 0-0 Fiorentina (31/1)
Did not play (on the bench)
This time Cristian Tello was in the squad. He waited patiently on the bench, for what was his first ever Serie A experience in his career. The Sabadell-born winger was not called by his coach, the Portuguese Paulo Souza, to be subbed on, but he could get to know a bit better his teammates and the way they play. Unfortunately for La Viola, they weren't able to get the 3 points and could only get a goalless draw from their trip to Genoa. In a very balanced game, Fiorentina had the possession but could not make the most of it. After two tough losses against Lazio (1-3) and AC Milan (2-0), Fiorentina are still recovering. Thanks to this draw they're now alone at 3rd place, 1 point in front of Inter. It should be a very hard-fought battle until the end for this precious 3rd place, synonym of Champion's League playoff.
Gerard Deulofeu - Everton - Buy-Back Transfer
Played 59+0 minutes
League Cup - Semi-finals - Manchester City 3-1 Everton (27/1) & FA Cup - 4th Round - Carlisle United 0-3 Everton (31/1)
Traditionally in England, some weekends are completely dedicated to the FA Cup. It was the case last weekend with the fourth round of the competition. At this stage, except for some top-flight clashes, it is common to see Premier League sides compete with way weaker opposition. For istance, on Sunday, Everton went to North-West England to compete against Carlisle United, a League Two side (4th division). Without much surprise, Roberto Martinez's men won the game 0-3 thanks to goals from Arouna Koné (2'), Aaron Lennon (14') and Ross Barkley (65'). Gerard Deulofeu did not take part in this placid expedition.
On the other hand, he participated in the League Cup semi-final loss, in the second leg against Manchester City, at Etihad Stadium (3-1). Despite a good start from his teammates, with a goal scored by Ross Barkley (18'), Manchester City soon reacted thanks to Fernandinho's equaliser (24'). It was still good for Everton that was still qualified at that moment. But James McCarthy and Arouna Koné respectively replacing Leon Osman and Gerard Deulofeu could not avoid City's awakening. Kevin de Bruyne (70') - who got severely injured afterwards - and Sergio Agüero (76') secured the result and sent Manchester City to the final, to be played against Liverpool.
Alex Song - West Ham - On Loan
Played 90 minutes
FA Cup - 4th Round - Liverpool 0-0 West Ham (30/1)
At West Ham, Alex Song seems to have found an ideal place to evolve, especially this season. The Hammers are doing great in Premier League, not too far away from the Champion's League qualifying places, with great performances against top teams, more particularly away from home. But last weekend was no Premier League game, it was time for some FA Cup football. A very tough draw decided that one Premier League side, between Liverpool and West Ham, had to leave the competition early. It will be decided at another time since both teams weren't able to score and the game ended on a 0-0 draw. Knowing the quality of the opposition, Slaven Bilic - West Ham coach - did not want to take too many chances and picked up a line-up very close to the ideal West Ham line-up. His players offered a solid performance although Liverpool slightly dominated the game. The replay game will take place in Boleyn Ground, West Ham home, to get the opportunity to play at Blackburn Rovers in the next round.