This season has been one for the outcasts. Deemed surplus to requirements at their parent clubs, several stars have made use of their opportunities elsewhere and are flourishing.
But there are others who are in stellar form also. With that in mind, we assess four of the most prominent names.
Club: Man United loaned to Valencia
Games: 14 (7)
Pereira is a peculiar case in the sense Jose Mourinho wanted him to remain with United, only for the 22-year-old to insist on a loan move to secure more senior football.
That rationalisation has been vindicated by a quality campaign with a Valencia side revitalised by boss Marcelino. Third in La Liga – above Real Madrid – the level of football has been extremely high and Pereira has embraced the challenge, expressing himself through step overs, cutbacks and devilish crosses.
He’s currently sidelined through injury after a horrid tackle from Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto in the Copa del Rey semi-final but is expected back next month to once again inhabit Los Che’s right of left wing.
Club: Chelsea loaned to Borussia Dortmund
Batshuayi is a benevolent character with superhero capabilities – you could call him the Batman. Indeed, the Belgian has swooped into Dortmund, scored winners in two of his first three games and has had a hand in all eight goals since he joined the Bundesliga giants.
Antonio Conte spent the winter window convincing Chelsea fans Andy Carroll would be better suited but the decision to let Batshuayi leave has proved utterly baffling.
The 24-year-old has been more than just his five goals with neat feet, excellent link-up play and strength on the ball hallmarking a sensational fledgling loan spell.
There’s nothing comical about his form for Chelsea with Alvaro Morata struggling for form and fitness.
Club: Real Madrid loaned to Bayern Munich
Games: 19 (5)
There’s a sense of irony with Rodriguez in so far as Real allowed him to join Bayern Munich because his attributes were not all that suited only for Madrid to then switch their style to play to his strengths without him.
The statistics are a real disservice to the Colombian because all corners of the club – board, boss, fans and teammates – agree he has been their standout star this season.
His casual ability to find space, pass with supreme accuracy and set-piece delivery has endeared him to Bayern.
He’s evolved under Jupp Heynckes to drop deeper and play more centrally, which has been crucial since Thiago’s injury, and ultimately Zinedine Zidane will be kicking himself.
MARCO VAN GINKEL
Club: Chelsea loaned to PSV
A third temporary stint at PSV – his fifth overall since moving to Chelsea in 2013 – has once again brought about the best form from the Dutchman.
Having contributed to 13 goals in 20 Eredivisie games, the 25-year-old is doing his best to tempt the Blues into giving him another shot in the Premier League.
Despite being a Chelsea player since 2013, he’s never actually been a Chelsea player. With just two Chelsea appearances to his name, Van Gikel has cut an isolated figure in Holland and fears over a persistent knee injury have hampered his chance of a return.
Regardless, he’s been in outstanding form this season and will be hard to remain unnoticed should he continue.
There are plenty of intriguing clashes throughout Europe’s biggest leagues on Saturday, with French giants Paris Saint-Germain and their German counterparts Bayern Munich both looking to extend their huge leads at the top of their respective leagues. Elsewhere, in Serie A, there is still much to be decided on the European qualification front and there is all to play for as we approach the business end of the season.
Here, we look at four key fixtures:
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN V STRASBOURG (20:00)
Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing Champions League defeat to Real Madrid. The Parisian giants host mid-table Strasbourg on Saturday, looking to extend their dominant 12-point lead at the summit of the Ligue 1 table. Although on paper a routine victory should be secured given the league leaders have won their past 12 matches on home soil, PSG will have to do without lynchpin Marco Verratti who misses out through suspension. Layvin Kurzawa and Thiago Motta are also injury doubts while it is expected Thiago Silva and Angel Di Maria could start after missing out at the Bernabeu.
The one caveat to those assuming PSG will win comfortably is the fact Strasbourg, who won promotion to the top flight this season, actually beat Unai Emery’s men 2-1 in the reverse fixture in December. But theirrecord in the capital is woeful and Le Racing have lost on their past seven visits to the Parc des Princes.
WOLFSBURG V BAYERN MUNICH (18:30)
Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes is likely to ring the changes for Saturday’s trip to Wolfsburg, having half an eye on the German giants’ Champions League first-leg home clash with Besiktas on Tuesday.
But, with a commanding 18-point advantage at the top ahead of second-placed RB Leipzig, the veteran boss, who is leaving at the end of the season, has that luxury. Key men Javi Martinez, James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski are all set to be rested but opportunity beckons for veteran full-back Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara – who is set to get his first minutes on the pitch since sustaining a knee injury in November. Kingsley Coman and Sandro Wagner could also start at the Volkswagen Arena.
The Wolves were thumped at Werder Bremen last weekend and have edged dangerously close to the relegation zone in recent weeks, having won just one of their past eight matches. Bayern, on the other hand, are chasing their 10th successive Bundesliga victory.
SCHALKE V HOFFENHEIM (21:30)
The race for European spots is beginning to pick up pace and Schalke could move into the top four with a win over Hoffenheim. But, given Domenico Tedesco’s men have won just once in 2018, it will prove to be a tricky test against a team who are three points off a top-six berth.
That said, the Gelsenkirchen side put in a spirited performance during last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at runaway leaders Bayern and will surely take a lot of confidence into this one in front of their supporters.
For Schalke, rising star Max Meyer is suspended and Benjamin Stambouli could take his place while Matija Nastasic is now available again after a ban. The visitors will make a last-minute call over the fitness of duo Serge Gnabry and Nico Schulz – and boss Julian Nagelsmann has a decision to make over whether he deploys Kevin Akpoguma or Ermin Bicakcic in his favoured back three formation.
UDINESE V ROMA (18:00)
The Giallorossi face a test of their top four credentials when they travel to the Dacia Arena and face an Udinese side still pushing for Europa League football themselves. Roma‘s arch-rivals Lazio are just a point behind them in fifth while Internazionale, in third, are more than in sight given they have just a solitary point more (48).
After back-to-back Serie A victories, Eusebio Di Francesco’s team will be keen to keep momentum on their side for this one ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League opener away at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Roma’s recent head-to-head against the Bianconeri doesn’t make for pleasant reading for fans of the Udine-based club, given the Stadio Olimpico outfit have won their past nine matches in all competitions against them. Remarkably, Roma’s record on the road is outstanding and they’ve suffered just a single defeat in their past 18 matches.
For the hosts, Maxi Lopez will replace Kevin Lasagna and the Romans have Lorenzo Pellegrini and Radja Nainggolan back.
Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Ostersund in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The visitors dominated proceedings at the Jamtkraft Arena as Nacho Monreal opened the scoring before Henrikh Mkhitaryan forced an own goal off Sotiris Papagiannopoulos in the first half.
The Armenian then set up Mesut Ozil for the third in the second half while David Ospina saved a penalty in injury time.
Here, we rate the performances of the Arsenal players.
ARSENAL RATINGS (4-2-3-1)
David Ospina – Needed to make good save from Saman Ghoddos’ fierce shot. Saved a penalty to earn his wages this week. 8
Nacho Monreal – Continued his goal-scoring form. Pounced after Aly Keita spilled a shot from Alex Iwobi for the opener. 8
Shkodran Mustafi – A comfortable night for the German. Made six tackles and two interceptions. Routine stuff, really. 8
Callum Chambers – Looked like a player lacking minutes on the pitch. Was troubled by Ghoddos. Seemed off the pace. 6
Hector Bellerin – Surprisingly sloppy. Seemed to play at half-pace. Lost the all on a couple of occasions and had a couple of lapses at the back. 6
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Denied with a block on the line before forcing an own goal. All too easy whenever Arsenal had the ball. 8
Mohamed Elneny – Arsenal’s midfield anchorman found himself in the final third for most of the time. Credit to him for getting back when needed. 7
Ainsely Maitland-Niles – A good game to play in midfield. Saw plenty of the ball, carried it forward as well and was accurate with his passes. 7
Mesut Ozil – Could’ve played this game in his sleep. Chief creator, scored the third and barely broke a sweat. 9
Alex Iwobi – Had a good game. Involved heavily in the final third, beating defenders and creating chances. 7
Danny Welbeck – A worryingly quiet night against the minnows. Got the ball in good areas but never took advantage. 5
Sead Kolasinac (for Monreal, 73′) – Slotted in at left-back and had little to do. 6
Eddie Nketiah (for Welbeck, 83′) – N/A
Reiss Nelson (for Mkhitaryan 84′) – N/A