International weeks often mean a flurry of activity, so a double-header of game action this past weekend and in the week ahead means that alongside your usual loan action at home, there’s lots to talk about and cover in this latest round-up.

We’ll go all the way back to last week, where midweek football came in the form of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy for League One and Two teams. Despite the competition rules attempting to force teams to play their ‘strongest’ sides (as based on those who have appeared most often), Southend found room to give Lee Sawyer his first start of the season away to Milton Keynes Dons. He was unable to impact on the result as the Dons won 2-0, but he was lively and managed to pick up his customary booking. For the weekend’s League fixture at home to Southampton he was back on the bench, but got a more generous 23 minutes in a 3-1 defeat, with the Shrimpers well out of the game by that point.

Liam Bridcutt fared better, as although Stockport also fell to the wayside in the JPT in a 3-1 defeat at Port Vale, the Chelsea reserve captain scored his first senior goal with an effort from some 30 yards out which dipped and skidded off the wet surface inside the goalkeeper’s near post. The Hatters were back to form on Monday night though, beating managerless Tranmere Rovers on Sky Sports courtesy of a sole Carl Baker penalty. Bridcutt was impressive throughout, running the show and making his team tick, as he has done since arriving at Edgeley Park, with a huge upturn in form coinciding with his presence.

Tom Taiwo and Carlisle did progress though, beating Macclesfield 4-2 at Brunton Park. Taiwo was key throughout, going close to his first club goal three times and laying a beautiful assist on for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, who was denied by the crossbar. He was again impressive at the weekend in their 0-1 defeat to Norwich, flying around the pitch putting in key block after key block and looking a class apart, to the extent Carlisle fans are worried they won’t be able to keep him at the end of his half-season loan spell due to interest from bigger clubs.

That’s the extent of the loanee action, but there’s much international coverage to compensate. We’ll start with Miroslav Stoch at senior level, where a point for Slovakia would have sealed their first ever World Cup Finals berth, but a frustrating night saw them fall to a 2-0 defeat in Tehelne Pole, leaving them needing to beat Poland in Warsaw to qualify by right, with Slovenia almost guaranteed a win at home to San Marino.

Continuing to Under-21 level and working our way down, England made their Chelsea TV debut in a 6-3 win over Macedonia at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena. Michael Mancienne started, as he usually does at this level, and had a mixed evening. He made England’s second goal, flicking on a Jack Wilshere corner for Micah Richards to bundle in at the far post, but was unfortunate to slip and stumble to allow Macedonia to score their second of three on the night. Disappointingly for Chelsea fans, Daniel Sturridge was an unused substitute, whilst Ryan Bertrand and Jack Cork failed to make the match night squad. Sam Hutchinson had already withdrawn from the party injured.

Elsewhere, Jeffrey Bruma continued his fledgling Under-21 career with Holland, playing 90 minutes in an unremarkable 1-0 away win in Finland which keeps the Jong Oranje on track for qualification for the 2011 Finals. Patrick van Aanholt was in the squad again, but remains unused to date. Nemanja Matic completed 52 minutes for Serbia as they cruised past Cyprus 2-0 before being replaced by Man Utd-bound Adem Ljajic, whilst Conor Clifford has been called into the Republic of Ireland’s Under-21 squad for the first time ahead of this midweek’s fixture against Switzerland. An Under-19 standout as captain, Conor has impressed hugely for club and country in the 2009 calendar year, and deserves his promotion thoroughly.

At the Under-20 World Cup, Jan Sebek may have out-lasted Michael Woods and Nana Ofori-Twumasi in Egypt, but his involvement was nil and his Czech Republic team-mates were eliminated in the Round of 16, falling to a 3-2 extra time defeat to Hungary.

In Under-19 news, Jacob Mellis scored his first goals for England at this level, grabbing one in their first qualifying win over Finland before notching again a couple of days later against Slovenia. The back to back 3-1 wins were enough to seal their place in the next stage (Elite), where they will be joined by Slovakia and Milan Lalkovic, who they face this Wednesday. Lalkovic started their first group match and played 63 minutes against Slovenia, picking up a yellow card, before being used as a late substitute in their 4-0 demolition of Finland. Much like Miroslav Stoch, Lalkovic has featured well above his age level for Slovakia’s youth teams and looks to have as bright a future.

Italian duo Fabio Borini and Jacopo Sala have been called into the Azzurrini squad for a Tuesday friendly against Holland, which continues a great few weeks for Borini, whilst it represents a first call-up to this age group for Sala, having previously represented their Under-17s. Kaby is off on Portuguese Under-18 duty in friendly action, whilst Marko Mitrovic was named in a Swedish Under-17 party for a brief training camp in Holland where they would play the Dutch Under-17s and Feyenoord’s youth team, but he was presumably withdrawn injured, as he was not involved in any form.

Gokhan Tore has reportedly been denied permission to play for Turkey in the forthcoming Under-17 World Cup, which makes sense given he is now an Under-21 squad player (not in their most recent party though), but Philipp Prosenik is with the Austrian team. He scored in a 4-2 win over Poland and played in the following 2-0 victory over Israel, which secures their place in the next round of qualifying. He will feature in Wednesday’s game against Armenia before returning to Chelsea.

Remember, you can keep bang up to date with everything Chelsea youth here at CFCnet, and on Twitter @chelseayouth.

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