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Chelsea gear up for UEFA Youth League title defense in Nyon

Tom Dulat/Getty Images

In the 24 years since the European Cup was rebranded the Champions League in 1992, no team has defended their title.  In the third year of the UEFA Youth League, Chelsea could very well do at youth level what Barcelona failed to do at the senior level this year thanks to Atlético Madrid's spirited upset.

Many of last season's winning squad are back in Nyon, Switzerland for today's (Friday's) semifinal against Anderlecht (12pm on BT Sport) and, hopefully, Monday's final against the winner of Real Madrid and PSG.  Captain Charlie Colkett, fresh off his bench appearance against Swansea City last weekend after a stop-start season thanks to injuries, will lead yet another highly talented group, including recent first-team debutant Jake Clarke-Salter, and last weekend's bench buddies Kasey Palmer and Ola Aina.  Goal-machine Tammy Abraham will of course be there as well, plus Brad Collins in goal and tiny Jay Dasilva at left back.

"We've produced some very good tactical performances in the competition this season and we know we will need another big display to overcome Anderlecht. The group has a different dynamic this season; we are quite difficult to break down and that was evident in the quarter-final against Ajax. We've had a solid look about us throughout the competition and our work defensively in our own half has been very impressive."

The stars of last year's team who have gone on to bigger things — Boga, Musonda, Solanke, Brown, and Christensen all starring on loan while Ruben Loftus-Cheek's attempting to actually bridge the gap to the Chelsea first-team — have been replaced by a new crop of names to watch.  There's Nathaniel Chalobah's younger brother Trevoh and Canadian youth international Fikayo Tomori in defense.  Another North American, the USA's Kyle Scott has been instrumental in attack alongside breakout star Jacob Maddox and ahead of midfielder Mukhtar Ali.  The likes of Dujon Sterling and Isaac Christie-Davies could serve as wild cards off the bench.

Anderlecht fell at this same stage last year, to losing finalists Shakhtar Donetsk.  They beat Barcelona in the quarterfinals while Chelsea eliminated Ajax.  Two traditional youth powerhouses vanquished by two of the new kids on the block.  But only one can survive now and move on to Monday's final.

"This group of players doesn't lose many games.  We're coming into a massive part of the season now, with a European semi-final, hopefully a final on Monday and then two legs of the FA Youth Cup final within the next fortnight. These are defining moments but this is what the boys have worked so hard for all season."

"It says a lot about our winning mentality; the players are used to winning, they enjoy winning and I think they expect to win as well, which is quite a nice trait to have. But most importantly, they will work extremely hard to win."

-Adi Viveash; source: Chelsea FC


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