With just two months left in most domestic European leagues as we now approach the business end of the footballing calendar, March was an extremely important month when it came to racking up wins. At this stage of a campaign, keeping clean-sheets and shutting out the opposition is as important as finding the back of the net.
With that in mind, here are nominees for the Defenders of the Month for March 2013:
Nicolas N’Koulou, Marseille and Cameroon
In what would turn out to be an important month for the side located on the French Riviera, N’Koulou played a pivotal role in his team’s rise to second place in the table.
Les Phoceens began March with a 2-1 home win against ESTAC Troyes to earn themselves three vital points towards securing one of France’s three qualification spots in the UEFA Champions League. N’Koulou was on hand to equalise at the Stade Velodrome once Marcos had scored for Troyes. Andre-Pierre Gignac completed the turnaround.
N’Koulou then cemented his growing reputation as one of French domestic football’s most capable centre-backs by helping his team keep three clean-sheets on the bounce.
Away at Olympique Lyonnais on the 10th of March, Marseille were able to keep the hosts at bay in a 0-0 draw, following that up with another goalless draw when they welcomed Ajaccio to the Velodrome five days later. Marseilles ended the month unbeaten after Gignac’s solitary goal gave them an important win at Nice yesterday.
Representing his country during the international break, N’Koulou played all 90 minutes of his nation’s 2-1 win over Togo in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier to ensure Cameroon stayed atop Group I.
Zdenek Pospech, Mainz 05
Former Czech Republic international Pospech has been the personification of his team’s impressive campaign in the Bundesliga this season. Currently sitting in sixth in the final Europa League spot, Mainz 05 had an unbeaten March to help cement their place in the top six of the German league.
Kicking off March with a 1-1 draw away at Fortuna Dusseldorf, Pospech oversaw a defence which kept two clean sheets in the month’s four games. An impressive 1-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen was followed by a dour goalless draw away at Hoffenheim.
The month ended with Mainz picking up another very valuable point against Werder Bremen at home two days ago as they ended the month unbeaten.
Pospech however did pick up a yellow card against Bremen in he game’s 41st minute.
Sylvain Distin, Everton
Everybody looks at Leighton Baines as one of Everton’s most consistent defenders, but it may be time to look into central defence and acknowledge the stellar job David Moyes’ centre-backs have done this season. Given the fixtures the Liverpool outfit played in March, it seems only logical that burly Frenchman Distin be included.
The former Portsmouth defender was the only central defender who played all four games in the heart of defence in the month of March.
The month began with a 3-1 home win to Reading, setting them on the right track towards the business end of the season. What probably makes Everton’s season more impressive than it already is is their 2-0 win over Manchester City at Goodison Park, despite being reduced to ten men. Despite having Steven Pienaar sent off in the second half, the hosts made light work of the reigning Champions attacks as goals from Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic gave them a memorable win.
That was then followed by a 1-0 win against Stoke, courtesy a moment of brilliance from summer signing Kevin Mirallas.
However, March is also the month which sees Everton exit the FA Cup following a 3-0 humbling at home to Wigan Athletic.
Mattia de Sciglio, AC Milan and Italy
While Juventus may be closing in on the Italian league title for the second year in a row running, it is important to pay attention to those who occupy the spaces below them. Nothing describes the business end of the season like efficient results, and AC Milan have certainly shown that.
The Rossoneri racked up four wins and four clean-sheets in what was a very good March for them. The only person to keep his place in an otherwise rotating defence, Mattia de Sciglio also represented Italy in his side’s 2-2 draw against Brazil during the international break.
The Lombardy side began March with a 3-0 over Lazio at the San Siro, following that up with a 2-0 defeat of Genoa away from home. Clean sheet number three came with Mario Balotelli’s brace against Palermo.
Milan continued their unbeaten streak in March with a win away at Chievo Verona, Balotelli’s solitary strike once again ensuring they were victorious.
Inigo Martinez, Real Sociedad
Inigo Martinez was born in 1991, but is already a full-fledged member of Real Sociedad’s first team. His performances at the back may not have earned his team as many clean sheets as the other members on this list, but an a traditionally two-horse league, his team currently sit fourth in La Liga.
The team from San Sebastian began the month with a point at home, drawing 3-3 with Real Betis before picking up a clean-sheet on their travels as they beat Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, bringing an end to the Mattress Makers’ hundred per cent home record this season.
That win was soon followed up with another one as Sociedad put four past Valladolid and then drew away at Espanyol to return to the restive Basque country having gone through March – yes, you guessed it – unbeaten.
The Spain U-21 defender’s performance have also ensured that his team occupy a Champions League spot with just two months to go, sitting ahead of more established names such as Malaga and Valencia.