Chelsea FC looked on with apparent envy last season as other English sides performed admirably in the inaugural NextGen Series, but this year Chelsea is 1 of 9 brand spanking new additions to the Champions League style youth competition; and get their campaign underway later today against CSKA Moscow.
Kick-off is at 6pm at Chelsea’s famous Cobham centre but who can we expect to look out for and how far can Chelsea go?
Choosing just the 5 players out of Chelsea’s provisional 24 man squad is a thankless task, as it is a team full to the brim and over spilling onto the furnishings with talented young footballers but here are few to keep a particularly keen eye upon.
We have covered this boy’s progress extensively here at HITC and with good reason.
Much more than just a Kaka look-a-likey he possesses a natural gift for ball craftsmanship and football intelligence. He can operate superbly in any of the attacking positions in the Youth Teams favoured 4-3-3 approach and was Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year last season.
A regular goalscorer at international youth level for Brazil and even grabbing a senior goal against Paris Saint-Germain this summer, how often he will play as he makes strides toward the first team is unknown, but he is eligible and in the squad, and is probably one of the best players in the competition.
Chelsea ruffled some feathers when they signed the talented left-sided operator from Nottingham Forest for £1.5 million in February but he is now becoming an established player in the Chelsea youth set-up.
He represented Republic of Ireland at youth level before switching back to England. He impressed for Forest in the Youth Cup and will want to seize his opportunities in Chelsea blue this season.
He has been linked with a Championship loan move and even at just 17 he would surely be able to handle it.
He has captained England and Chelsea in a very successful youth career including the European Under-17 Championship and FA Youth Cup triumphs respectively.
Comfortable at centre back or holding midfield; a very important player if he hangs around for the NextGen series.
Highly rated on the fan message boards the attacking and enthusiastic approach of the Cambridgshire lad makes for entertaining viewing.
He can operate anywhere on the right hand side with ease and in May scored his first international youth level goal for England against Slovenia.
Chelsea beat Manchester City to the signing of the talented Dane at the tail-end of last year and he has gone on to impress in the Youth Team.
Could potentially form a formidable defensive partnership with Chalobah or the equally adept Jordan Houghton, who deserved a mention, in an impressive looking Chelsea side.
As for Chelsea’s chances you have to consider them as genuine contenders. Their group consists of Ajax, Molde and CSKA Moscow.
They should dispatch of Norwegian side Molde comfortably and whilst CSKA pose a threat a good home win this evening should see them through. The biggest challenge lies with Ajax, last year’s runner-up who always have a strong youth team and will be wanting to uphold their reputation as one of the world’s best when it comes to developing talented footballers.
However with many talented players themselves and off the back of a FA Youth Cup winning season Chelsea may be looking to emulate their first team squad by conquering Europe.
Here is Chelsea’s vital Youth Cup final first leg thrashing of Blackburn Rovers to give a taste of what they bring to the NextGen...
And a few tweets from the Chelsea group just to whet your appetite even more...
Thanks to everyone for the Good luck wishes :-) #FootballFamily
Next Gen game tomorrow against CSKA Moscow wish me luck :D
Even the Kitman got involved...
Game day vs CSKA Moscow #nextgenseries
HITC will bring you news of the game tomorrow as well as a preview to Arsenal’s opening fixture.
image: © Crystian Cruz