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A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled into an XI from across Europe’s top seven leagues. You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2016 – 21 years old and below for outfield players // 22 years old and below for goalkeepers]
With January over and the races hotting up in all the leagues, this weekend has seen some important clashes take place across Europe. While in England Chelsea pulled further away from the chasing pack with a win over Arsenal, Bundesliga saw the initial runaway leaders Leipzig felled by Dortmund, and even the mighty Bayern dropped points against Schalke. Serie A saw some eventful games, with 8 being scored in 2 fixtures, and Milan’s recent resurgence continued to be cut down after a third straight defeat saw them booed off the pitch.
Defence: One of the rare keepers to achieve this feat, Alban Lafont retains his place in the ToTW from last time around. The 18 year old was assured at the back, and importantly, showed great skill to complete 4 catches. Catches are an underrated aspect of a keeper’s game, and Lafont’s adroitness in this regard is a massive positive to his game.
Another man retaining his place in the side (third successive appearance) is Marc Navarro. While his previous appearances have seen him feature for his tremendous attacking contributions, this time, he’s in the side for his excellent defensive work. Navarro managed to make 6 tackles and 5 clearances as Espanyol won yet again, away at Malaga this time. On the other flak is the left back from Monaco’s deadly left sided duo of Mendy and Lemar. While Falcao rightly took the plaudits for his impressive brace, credit must also go to Benjamin Mendy, whose 2 assists allowed Monaco to win this derby and surge to the top of the table in a tight 3 horse race for the Ligue 1 title.
At center back, we see the return of Niklas Sule. Hoffenheim’s long unbeaten streak came to an end against Leipzig last week, but they were quick to return to winning ways with a crushing 4-0 win over mid table Mainz. The defence stayed tight for them, and Sule was key, making 6 tackles, 3 interceptions and 8 clearances in a match that was closer than the scoreline suggests. His partner at center back is the talented Jason Denayer. The Belgian has mostly been used by Moyes as a defensive midfielder alongside Ndong, but hasn’t really acquitted himself there. Starting at center back in a crunch relegation 6 pointer could’ve been big pressure, but he held his end up well, even making a goal-line clearance to maintain an important away clean sheet.
Midfield: The big story from Portugal this week was the Porto Sporting game and of course, Iker Casillas’ excellent save. However, away from the headlines, the leaders Benfica kept up their performance with a fine 3-0 win at home against Nacional. The young Andrija Zivkovic did well to earn his spot on the ToTW with an assist. Aside from the assist as well, he was lively throughout the game, making 5 key passes for his team. The left wing sees Sociedad’s tricky winger, Mikel Oyarzabal take his place in the team. The wide man was a constant menace to the Osasuna defence as his side ran out 3-2 winners at the Anoeta. Besides his assist, his constant running on the ball and dribbling were important to Sociedad. The player ended up winning 4 fouls for his team in the process.
While last week it was Gio Simeone taking his place in the side for a heroic performance for Genoa, he couldn’t repeat the trick this week as Sassuolo left the Luigi Ferraris with 3 points. The man who does return to the team is Lorenzo Pellegrini, after scoring the winner in this tight contest. His partner in central midfield features after a similar feat. Ousmane Dembele didn’t score the winning goal, but provided the assist for Aubameyang to score the winner in a tight contest against Leipzig.
Forwards: Both forwards this week are from the Premier League, which is a surprising deviation from the norm. First up is M’Baye Niang. The AC Milan man is at Watford on loan, and made quite the impression on his debut with a goal and an assist. A beautiful header from him ended up being the winning goal of the game, but he already made his mark in the first half, setting up strike partner Troy Deeney. He showed the talent that we all know he so abundantly possesses with his technique, strength, speed all on show. His partner is a debutant on the ToTW, but is certainly one who will probably feature a lot more on this team. Gabriel Jesus has been earmarked as a special player, and the Brazilian has made quite the start to life in the Premier League. He scored in midweek against West Ham, and got the winning brace this weekend against Swansea. Most impressive is his seamless transition into the side and link up with fellow youngsters Sane and Sterling to form a fluid front three. Watch this space because this promises to be great fun.