Renato Sanches appears to finally be putting a testing period in his young career behind him as he enjoys a resurgence at Bayern Munich, and the Portuguese midfielder was singled out for praise this week by teammate Joshua Kimmich.
Elsewhere, Gelson Martins got his name on the scoresheet for the first time in Atletico Madrid colours, while Bernardo Silva, Nuno Espírito Santo and Marco Silva have been in the news in England and Olympiakos boss Pedro Martins has taken a swipe at refereeing in Greece.
"Sanches won us the game" - Kimmich
For former Benfica midfielder Sanches, this season has seen a gradual return to form as he looks to use a second stint with German champions Bayern to reignite his career. Having spent the second half of last season on loan in the English Premier League with Swansea City, the 21-year-old is back in Munich aiming to justify his €35m move in 2016.
Sanches, who was named Bayern’s Player of the Month in September, emerged from the bench on 55 minutes at the weekend with his side drawing 1-1 away against Mainz. Less than ten minutes later Bayern were back in front, and while most of the team ran to congratulate goalscorer Thiago Alcantara, defender Kimmich chose to acknowledge Sanches first.
“The second goal, it’s Sanches that won the ball,” Kimmich said. “The determination he showed to win back possession ultimately won us the game. Of course Lewandowski also played the ball well and Thiago finished it, but it’s not always the scorer who decides the game.”
Kimmich also praised Sanches for taking on the challenge of joining Bayern at such a young age. "I take my hat off to him. It takes some guts to come here alone at 18. He didn’t have it so easy the first time around but then to come back and clearly state that he wanted to succeed – it’s remarkable how he’s done that, mentally.”
Gelson Martins off the mark
Meanwhile, another Portuguese facing the task of adapting abroad is Gelson Martins, and the former Sporting forward took a big step in the process by scoring his first Atletico Madrid goal on Tuesday evening in the Copa del Rey.
Martins, who is yet to start a league game for Los Colchoneros, was given a run-out by manager Diego Simeone against minnows San Andreu, repaying his manager with the only goal of the game in the first half. Encouragingly, Simeone appeared impressed with more than just the 23-year-old’s eye for goal when speaking after the match.
“I liked Gelson's generosity in terms of putting pressure on the defenders and helping the team. This adds to his speed and his willingness to speed up the counterattacks. Today he undoubtedly took a step forward,” Simeone said in praise of his player.
Silva predicts rivals
In England, Manchester City’s in-form Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva has been speaking about potential challengers to his side’s Premier League title. Bernardo’s quotes have drawn attention in England for his omission of local rivals, José Mourinho’s Manchester United, from his thoughts.
"I think it will be harder because last season nobody was expecting us to win as many games and to reach that level of points, so this season the teams know they have to do better to beat us," the former Benfica man told Sky Sports.
“Of course it will be very hard, but we will work every game to get the three points and at the end of it try and celebrate winning one more Premier League. Contenders? I think either Chelsea and Liverpool, they are very strong, Arsenal as well. Even Tottenham, even though they lost, they're still contenders.”
Nuno: "Goals will come"
If Tottenham are to be contenders, they will be hoping for a positive result this Saturday when they travel to Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers. The former Porto boss has seen his side slip to back-to-back defeats recently, during which Wolves have struggled to convert chances, but Nuno has warned that the goals are coming for his team.
“We have to react," he said. “We have to maintain our high standards. We know we're going to face a fantastic team and we want to compete.
"At Brighton was frustration, disappointment, especially for the players because they felt they were the better team. How you play is very important. How we manage to unbalance the other teams and control our defence...we are optimistic for the game.
"I am totally sure the goals will come. We must improve in the final touch, but the difficult part of the game is to build, to create chances that we can shoot at goal. This final touch, we must work on it and we will do so and improve."
Coleman hails Silva
Staying in England, players at Everton continue to line up to praise the impact of Portuguese manager Marco Silva. Long-serving defender Seamus Coleman is the latest Toffees players to go on record to speak about his manager, with Irishman Coleman giving Silva credit for his preparation for Everton’s recent narrow defeat to Manchester United.
“The manager instilled a lot of belief into us prior to the game that we could come to Old Trafford and get something,” Coleman said. “That is what the manager is about – he is positive and believes we can do that.”
“That is great for us as players. He does his job in the week to set us up to try to win these games. It is never a case of setting up for a draw – it is to go out and win at these big stadiums.
“We were disappointing at times on Sunday but at others we created chances and we could have got an extra goal [to the one we got]. It is an exciting time for the Club. The manager is very positive and always wants us to play on the front foot and it is very exciting.”
For his part, Silva said: “We are improving as a team. We are able to compete in this type of game and that is really important for us. It shows that we are growing as a team. The players are believing in the messages that we are giving to them. They are working hard in the week to perform at the level that we saw against Manchester United.
“You could see the fans giving them an ovation at the end of the match and that reflects that. The fans were unhappy at the result, like us, but they kept believing in us and for sure we will be stronger again next week.”
Martins "bothered" by refs in Greece
Less positive in his declarations is Olympiakos’ coach Pedro Martins, who has seen his side’s results improve in somewhat unconvincing fashion. Having endured a spell of four matches without a victory, Martins’ team scored two second-half goals to beat Luxembourg outfit F91 Dudelange in the Europa League, after which they overcame bottom-placed Apollon Smirnis 1-0 in the Greek Super League on Monday.
Martins insists that his side have deserved to win the recent games by more, but his frustrations boiled over in an attack on the referees in Greek football. “It is obvious that we want to score more, we try it during the whole game. We try to create opportunities, but there is the opponent goalie, other times we are to blame,” he said.
“So is football. We are the team with the most opportunities in the championship, but we do not score as many times as we want, and it is something that needs to be changed. We played a match with a team that came to play defensively and that made it hard for us to open the spaces. We struggled a lot in this but we created enough opportunities in the second half.
“What bothered us once again was the attitude of the referee. When they referee Olympiakos they have another attitude. We saw by the way he behaved with us compared to the players of Apollon. Even in the way he allowed the opponent's delays. I do not understand why the referee should be different to other teams and that should be seen by the observers. I think we have good referees in Greece. The important thing about the game is that we won.”
By Sean Gillen