An all-English final is in store in the NextGen Series tonight. With either side capable of being crowned champions...
I have covered the NextGen Series this season since day one and throughout that time have got to know the teams on offer pretty well; and it is with great pleasure that I get to preview an all-English affair after Chelsea and Aston Villa booked their place in the final of the competition.
Chelsea had to overcome Arsenal in a thrilling 4-3 AET victory while Aston Villa blew away their Portuguese opposition in added time with goals from Jack Grealish and Samir Carruthers proving the difference.
In terms of calling a favourite it is a thankless task. All that can be said is that while Chelsea perhaps play the more technical passing game, Villa’s style is more direct but by no means less deadly.
Many worried that without their star striker Mikey Drennan, out with an ankle injury, that Villa would dry up in front of goal but he has been replaced by Callum Robinson with aplomb and the technical prowess of Samir Carruthers just behind the front man is proving to be a deadly tool.
Villa are also, perhaps, better at the back. It would have to be said that Bradley Lewis and Janoi Donacien have been far more assured in Como then Alex Davey and Daniel Pappoe; however Nathan Ake has now joined up with the squad and could feature. Both are exceptional in the air but struggle when the ball is zipped around the ground quickly; something Villa are good at.
For Tony McAndrew’s side the big ask will be how to dominate the midfield where Chelsea are probably stronger than anyone else in the competition. Lewis Baker is a pivoting midfield player capable of threading a perfect pass and not afraid to enter a tackle; or hit a speculative effort at goal. Then they have Ruben Loftus-Cheek; a potential star in the making the tall and powerful midfielder also has the technical class that saw him compared to Socrates by pundit Stewart Robson.
It should be an enthralling encounter and calling a winner would be an erroneous task. Simply put it is one where you will simply have to watch and enjoy. For the English neutral pick a side and see what happens.
Can Chelsea emulate their senior side of last season and be crowned kings of Europe; or can Villa ease the worries at the club by being named the best young team in Europe?
Who do you think will win the NextGen Series?
image: © NextGen