It's FA Youth Cup time! I mean, it's Chelsea Youth Cup time!
Aiming for their third final in a row, the Baby Blues open their campaign versus non-league Dartford. While this is Chelsea's first action in the Cup - we're now in the "third round proper" - this will be the sixth round for the visitors. They started way back in September, with a 7-0 win away to Margate in the first qualifying round (which is actually the second round overall in the FA Youth Cup). The official attendance was 57.
The Darts (no, not the 'Kicks,' silly commenters) followed that up with another away victory, this time just 5-0 at Sittingbourne in front of 83 people. In the third qualifying round, they got to play at home; in front of 100+, they bested Thamesmead Town 4-2 and thus made it into the "first round proper." There, and once again at home, they made quick work of Christchurch 6-1, which they then followed up with a 3-2 win away to Grays Athletic. That brings us to today.
To say that Dartford are facing an immeasurably tougher task today than in any of the previous rounds would be an understatement. While there's always a chance of an upset (the Magic of the Cup (TM)), Dartford manager Tony Burman knows that the reward for his side is simply facing some of the top talents in Europe:
"It's fantastic for them. They're getting their rewards by being drawn in a cup tie against a Premier League side."
"They know it's going to be tough because they're up against some of the best young players in the world, not just in England."
"It's a fantastic experience for them and I'm sure they'll give it their best shot. Whatever happens, we're proud of our young guys."
-Tony Burman; source: Kent Online
Chelsea U18 starting lineup (4-1-4-1):
Mitchell Beeney | Kevin Wright, Jonathan Muleba, Dion Conroy, Fankaty Dabo | Ruben Loftus-Cheek | Reece Mitchell, Charley Musonda, Jr., Jeremie Boga, George Cole | Dominic Solanke
Substitutes from: Brad Collins, Tammy Abraham, Ruben Sammut, Charlie Colkett
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, that's both Charley Jr. (who may play a bit deeper, more in line with Ruben, who's captaining the side today) and Boga out there. This might just be the definition of fun.
Kick-off is in about 15 minutes, live, on Chelsea TV.