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 90 minutes
La Liga - Day 23 - Athletic Club 0-0 Villarreal (6/2)
This weekend was a challenging one for Villarreal, visiting 7th place Athletic Bilbao. In the beautiful new San Mamès, the Yellow Submarine didn't sink and preserved a clean sheet. The game was intense, as the number of fouls can prove (37 in total, 17 from Bilbao, 20 from Villarreal), and let little room for the offensive players to shine. Defences took the advantage on attacks, and Bilbao couldn't score despite a slight domination (53% of possession, 9 shots). Denis Suárez, who played the whole game, could not find his partners of attack to get a precious goal that would have kept Marcelino's team just two points away from Real Madrid. The result was still positive though, because this goalless draw enabled Villarreal to get an 8-point difference with the 5th Sevilla.
Adama Traoré - Aston Villa - Buy-Back Transfer
Did not play (broken bone injury)
Premier League - Day 24 - West Ham 2-0 Aston Villa (2/2) & Premier League - Day 25 - Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City (6/2)
This year, Premier League is acting crazy. Between Chelsea's fall, after winning the title last year, and Leicester's run this season, many observers don't know what to think. The same though must go through Remi Garde's head at the moment. Appointed as Aston Villa's new manager on November the 2nd, the French coach is struggling with his team to get a winning streak and get an improbable run to avoid relagation. If Aston Villa lost to West Ham at Boleyn Ground, a very logical result given West Ham's form, the Villains managed to beat a direct opponent in this race against relegation since Villa won 2-0 at Villa Park against Norwich City. Thanks to former City defender Joleon Lescott and Villa's hero Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa got the three points and plunged their opponent in the relegation zone. With 16 points, Villa is 8 points away from Newcastle, 17th in the league. With 13 games to go, it seems like an impossible mission. But why giving up? As for Adama Traoré, he is still out injured, and probably won't come back before a few weeks.
Alen Halilovic – Sporting Gijón – On Loan
La Liga - Day 23 - Sporting 1-1 Depor (6/2)
Played 24 minutes
A few weeks ago, Sporting had the ideal profile of a future relagated club in Liga Adelante. However, Alen Halilovic's teammates have been almost unstoppable lately. After thrashing Real Sociedad 5-1 at home and getting a precious 1-0 victory over Valencia at Mestalla, Sporting have managed to end a third game without losing, after a 1-1 draw at home against 9th place Deportivo La Coruña. In a very balanced game, despite Depor having 53% of the ball possession, the locals scored first at 32th minute thanks to Jony, but it was soon before Luis Alberto equalised for Depor, still in the first half (41st minute). No more goals after half-time and one point for both team. Subbed on in minute 66, Halilovic couldn't make a quick difference this time. Thanks to this draw, Sporting get up to 16th place (level on points with Espanyol but 16th on goal difference), with one game still in hand against the all-mighty Barça.
Cristian Tello – Fiorentina – On Loan
Serie A - Day 23 - Fiorentina 2-1 Carpi (3/2) & Serie A - Day 24 - Bologna 1-1 Fiorentina (6/2)
Played 60 + 81 minutes
Finally, Cristian Tello got some subtantial game time. The Catalan winger got involved with Fiorentina for a busy week in Serie A with two games. In the first one, at home against Carpi, Tello played 60 minutes, giving a hard time to Carpi's defender thanks to his speed and eagerness to play after weeks staying on the bench at FC Porto. He saw his Spanish partner Borja Valero score the first goal of the game, two minutes into the match. He then was replaced by Federico Bernadeschi, and observed from the bench Lasagna's equaliser (73rd minute) before Zarate liberated Artemio Franchi Stadium and gave the win to La Viola (2-1, 90th minute). On the weekend, it was a whole different story as 11th place Bologna hosted Fiorentina. In the starting line-up once again, Tello played 80 minutes, enough time to see his fellow winger Bernadeschi give La Fio the lead (0-1, 59th) just before Giaccherini equalised for Bologna, only 4 minutes later (1-1, 63rd). Cristian Tello then let his place on the pitch to Mauro Zarate, who could not get a late winner this time. Although it is not a bad result for Fiorentina from home, this draw means they only are one point ahead of Inter at 3rd place, and already 8 points behind Juventus. The fight for Champion's League playoffs will be tight.
Gerard Deulofeu - Everton - Buy-Back Transfer
Played 0+0 minutes (on the bench)
Premier League - Day 24 - Everton 3-0 Newcastle (3/2) & Premier League - Day 25 - Stoke City 0-3 Everton (6/2)
Everton is on a 3-0 winning streak. Whatever the opponent, the Toffees do have the hang of the scoring and not conceeding performance. It has been the case at home, at Goodison Park, with a 3-0 win over Newcastle, thanks to an Aaron Lennon goal and a double from Ross Barkley, unstoppable at the moment. The Toffees then went to the Britannia Stadium, where it is always difficult to play for any team in the league, and won 0-3 once again, thanks to Lukaku, Coleman and Aaron Lennon, who all scored in the first half. In both those games, despite the domination of Everton and their incredible efficiency offensively, Gerard Deulofeu stayed on the bench watching. A week to forget for the Spaniard who surely expected to play more. At least, he can enjoy Everton's run, which have led them to 8th place with 35 points, ahead on goal difference of the rival Liverpool.
Alex Song - West Ham - On Loan
Played 90+90 minutes
Premier League - Day 24 - West Ham 2-0 Aston Villa (2/2) & Premier League - Day 25 - Southampton 1-0 West Ham (6/2)
Although on the paper the win was relatively easy to get for West Ham, their victory against Aston Villa at home in Boleyn Ground took time to materialise. Jordan Ayew helped the locals by being sent off after 17 minutes only, but nothing was scored in the first half. Instead, Alex Song got a yellow card at 43rd minute. Eventually, West Ham broke Aston Villa's lock thanks to Michail Antonio (58th minute) and Cheikhou Kouyaté (85th minute). In the middle, Song and his teammates controlled the tempo, letting very few chances to the Villains. The game at Southampton was not as simple. Against a very solid opponent, West Ham could not score and conceeded a short 1-0 defeat, on a goal from Yoshida (9th minute). Despite having the ball possession (55 %) and a higher number of shots (9 against 6 to Southampton), and even with Victor Wanyeama being sent off early in the second half, the Hammers have not been able to equalise. This upsetting result prevented them from taking the 5th place to Manchester United, which drew against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Instead, West Ham stay in 6th position, and see their opponent Southampton coming back at just 2 points. European football is far from being secured for West Ham entry in the Olympic Stadium, next season.
Martín Montoya - Real Betis - On Loan
Liga BBVA - Day 23 - Betis 1-0 Valencia (7/2)
Played 90 minutes
He made the right call. Martin Montoya left a stuttering Inter, in which he was only a substitute, to join Real Betis, fighting for promotion and more adapted to his eagerness to play. On the weekend, Martin Montoya played the full game against Valencia at Benito Villamarin Stadium. And the Verderones (Big Greens) did not disappoint, as they beat Valencia, which haven't won a single game in La Liga since Gary Neville's arrival. Thanks to a Ruben Castro goal at the start of the second half (49th minute), Real Betis secured the three points, crucial in the fight against relagation. They are now 13th in the table, level on points with Valencia, only behind on goal difference. More importantly, they get some more air since they're now 5 points clear of the relegation zone and 18th Las Palmas. And Martin Montoya is happy. Hopefully it will stay that way.