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NextGen semifinal preview - Chelsea vs Arsenal

Arsenal players during training before the match

For those of you who don’t know what the NextGen Series is, it is a competition featuring 24 elite youth academies from around the world. It gives the young world class players a platform to perform in front of thousands of scouts from top European clubs.

Venue - Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia.

Date – 29th of March 2013

Kick-off – 10:00 PM

TV – ESPN

Tournament – NextGen Series

Chelsea lock horns with Arsenal tonight at the Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia to book a final berth with either Sporting CP or Aston Villa, which is to be played in the same stadium on the first of April.

Chelsea came 3rd in their group while Arsenal came 2nd, with the clubs’ respective highlights being a 6-0 drubbing of Molde and a confident 3-0 win over Marseille.

As the teams proceed through to the next round, Chelsea saw off a much hyped Barcelona side with 10 men on the field and an unbelievable 2-0 scoreline. Arsenal on the other hand brushed aside Inter Milan with talented Yennaris scoring the lone goal. Chelsea then saw off Juventus with a dominant display at Griffin park, with a 4-1 scoreline while Arsenal’s Gnabry scored in the 65th minute to give the young Gunners a 1-0 win over CSKA.

Chelsea’s expected lineup tonight isBlackman; Musonda, Davey, Christensen, Wright; Baker, Loftus-Cheek; Boga, Nditi, Kiwomya; Feruz.

News - Chelsea will be without Nathan Ake who trained with the first team under Rafael Benitez’s orders.

Arsenal’s expected lineup tonight isIliev; Bellerin, Hajrovic, Hayden, Angha; Yennaris, Olsson; Ebecilio, Gnabry, Eisfeld; Akpom

News – Chuba Akpom is expected to come back into the squad after fighting off concerns over a serious groin injury.

The Chelsea players to watch out for:

Andreas Christensen -

16 years old and being a regular in the U-21 side says a lot about a player’s ability. There’s a chance he could start at right-back instead of Musonda (who covers for recently loaned Todd Kane), but due to the absence of Nathan Ake, he could get his physical presence back into the middle. One of the best headers in the team, he makes good decisions while under pressure.

Others in the role – Alex Davey

Lewis Baker -

Baker captained the team against Juventus and scored two scintillating goals as Chelsea dominated possession in the middle of the park. He has been on quite some form for the U-21s this season and might be given a senior contract as he turns 18 soon. He’s equally adept on both feet, has brilliant composure and has first say on all set-pieces.

Others in the same role – Alex Kiwomya , Ruben Loftus Cheek, Jeremie Boga.

Islam Feruz -

He is the lone man up front and considering the fact that former Chelsea boss, Roberto Di Matteo once debated on bringing him in the first team and replacing Fernando Torres, says a lot about his ability. He has an eye for picking up spaces in between the centre-backs and spearheads every counter-attacking move produced by Chelsea.

The Arsenal players to watch out for:

Hector Bellerin -

He featured for Arsenal in the 3rd round of the League Cup. His footballing education comes from the famed La Masia. His runs down the flanks and passing capability is vital to the U-21′s tactical approach. He turned 18 recently and was the brain behind the lone goal scored against CSKA Moscow. Arsenal youth coaches have high hopes of him making the transition into the first-team.

Others in the role - Isaac Hayden.

Thomas Eisfield -

It’s tough to choose a man in midfield due to the presence of captain Nico Yennaris, but for me, Thomas Eisfield has the potential to make it to the first team. He has been pivotal to their presence in the NextGen series and also played against Reading in the historic League Cup tie which featured 12 goals. He can shoot and he can pass from any part of the field. He will be decisive in their game against Chelsea.

Others in the role – Nico Yennaris, Serge Gnabry.

Chuba Akpom -

Another 17-year-old who has been one of the best players in the U-21 league. He has pace and is well built, something frail defenders do not like. He has the ability to drive players out of position , something midfield players like. He can also switch positions with the left-winger, which makes him quite versatile. He was pivotal in Arsenal’s victory against Inter Milan.

It most definitely is the London derby in Italy, with many fans travelling to support the young boys and hoping they get back on Saturday to watch their first-team play. Both the teams love to attack, which makes it a great spectacle for neutral fans. Moreover, this is the opportunity to expand your knowledge about your club’s youth players, who hopefully will make it big one day.

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