This Tuesday at 6.00pm CET, the U19 team will play their quarter final of the UEFA Youth League against Anderlecht, with a place in the Final Four in Nyon on offer for the winners of this one-legged tie in Brussels.
The Belgians are the same side that put an end to Barça’s title defence last season, winning 1-0 in front of a tournament record crowd of 12,871 spectators at the Constant Vaden Stock stadium. This year, the game is being played at the considerably smaller Van Roy Stadium, but the expectation surrounding the rematch is just as hot.
The U19 team has hit on fine form of late. They are unbeaten in seven games and have yet to lose in Europe this season. But they go into this game without the injured Morer and Tur, the suspended Cururella and Montes, or Chumi, who is away on duty for the Spain U17 team. It means that Sergi Palencia of the B team has been brought in to cover for the much-depleted defence.
Speaking before the game, manager Gabri García said that “it’s an added motivation that we’re playing against the side that knocked us out last year. It’s a similar Anderlecht team, with 7 or 8 of the same players. The thing with this tournament is that a lot of opposing players are from first teams, but step down to help their U19s in certain matches like these.”
“They are a strong, physical team, as they tend to be in Europe. But we won’t change our way of playing, we just adapt. We’re assuming that we’ll be able to take the initiative in the game.”
Anderlecht, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the semi-finals of last year’s edition, which was eventually won by Chelsea, were actually beaten in the previous round by Dinamo Zagreb, but advanced when it was revealed that the Croatians had fielded an ineligible player.
In the other three semi-finals, Real Madrid host Benfica in another game being played today, while Paris Saint Germain and AS Roma meet tomorrow Wednesday. Chelsea’s game with Ajax Amsterdam won’t be played until next week, on March 15.