DeAndre Yedlin’s recent run of games for Newcastle have not been good.
The right back had a nightmare last weekend against Watford, including conceding an own goal. He struggled again against West Bromwich Albion midweek in a 2-2 draw. And with Newcastle floundering, manager Rafa Benitez saw fit to shake things up, changing to a formation with wing-backs and dropping Yedlin from the lineup in favor of Javier Manquillo and Matt Ritchie against Chelsea.
The results for Newcastle did not change, as the Magpies fell 3-1 to the Blues with Yedlin coming on as a late substitute. Given the run of form for the two sides of late, that’s not really surprising. Manquillo was given a difficult task in handling the Chelsea attack, including Eden Hazard, and struggled in the contest.
Perhaps more consequently for Yedlin’s playing-time hopes, Ritchie, normally a midfielder, lined up at left wing-back in the contest and was unconvincing in the role. That could well mean Manquillo is shifted back to the left side, where he has been playing, and Yedlin is restored on the right.
However, regardless of whether he is restored immediately or not, Yedlin’s form needs to pick up. He has been one of the few Americans with a locked-down starting spot in a top European league, yet this past week was another reminder that such positions are always tenuous to all but a select few. A quick return to the XI is preferable, but it will be a short one if Yedlin doesn’t recapture the quality he displayed earlier in the campaign.
MOORE GETS ANOTHER CHANCE
After Shaq Moore had a nightmare of a time against Atletico Madrid last weekend, it seemed potentially the end of his brief run in the Levante XI. He did not start in the team's Copa del Rey second leg against Girona on Tuesday — a 1-1 draw which saw Levante advance 3-1 on aggregate — and did not get onto the field as a substitute.
However, after Pedro Lopez was restored to the lineup against Girona, it was Moore who got the start for Levante’s La Liga match against Malaga. And Moore rewarded manager Juan Lopez Muniz's faith with a steady performance at right back.
Moore made four tackles, a new high for him in La Liga, and had an interception while completing 80 percent of his passes. Most importantly, he contributed to a clean sheet, though Levante also failed to score in a 0-0 draw.
Young players will have ups and downs, so it is a good sign for Moore that Muniz went back to him after the poor performance against Atletico. It’s also important to see young players respond, and it appears Moore did just that this weekend.
GONZALEZ AND MONTERREY INTO LIGA MX FINAL
Teenager Jonathan Gonzalez’s dream season could be on the verge of a fairy-tale ending.
The 18-year-old defensive midfielder has become a fixture in Monterrey’s lineup this season, starting 18 of the club’s 21 Liga MX games this campaign including all of its playoff contests. That campaign has seen Monterrey finish top of the Liga MX Apertura, topping rivals Tigres to secure that finish.
And now after taking care of Atlas in the Liguilla quarterfinals 6-2 on aggregate and then Morelia 5-0 in the semifinals, Monterrey heads to the final to face off against Tigres once again.
In the meeting a few weeks ago, Tigres’ attack, which finished second to Monterrey with 28 goals in 17 games and boasts names like Andre-Pierre Gignac, Enner Valencia, Jurgen Damm and Javier Aquino, was held scoreless by Monterrey a 2-0 victory. Gonzalez went the full 90 in that contest in his defensive midfield role.
He’ll have his work cut out for him again facing players of that caliber in the final. But Gonzalez has been up to the task so far. If he and his teammates are again superior over the two legs, then the teen’s breakout Apertura will conclude in the best way possible — with silverware that he had a hand in winning.
CAMERON NEARS STOKE CITY RETURN
Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron has not played since October 21 against Bournemouth thanks to a concussion, missing six games.
However it appears Cameron’s return may be in the cards. He was cleared to return to training late last week, though Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Swansea came too soon for him to be part of the squad.
Don’t fret if Cameron doesn’t immediately land back in the squad after over a month away. The Premier League’s festive period is coming up and Stoke has seven games between now and New Year’s Day. Whether it’s in defense or the midfield, if Cameron proves fit following his head injury, he should see plenty of action in the coming weeks.
WILLIAMS PLAYS WELL IN HUDDERSFIELD LOSS
Danny Williams has been in and out of the Huddersfield lineup this season. Last week he started in a hard-fought loss to Manchester City and went the 90 in the contest. Midweek he was used as a substitute in a 5-1 loss to Arsenal.
Saturday saw him return to the XI for a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton. With Williams lining up as one of two defensive midfielders he put in a solid shift on the day, making a tackle and five interceptions — the latter a new Premier League high for him. He also had two clearances and drew high marks for the performance.
Unfortunately for Williams, Huddersfield fell 2-0 to the Toffees. That makes it four straight losses for the Terriers, and while two of those defeats did come to Manchester City and Arsenal, they won’t feel as good about losses to previously struggling Everton and Bournemouth. It leaves Huddersfield five points above the drop zone.