Nobody will know the opposition better than Dutch youth international Nathan Ake when Chelsea take on Ajax in the NextGen Series at Aldershot tonight.
Ake (pictured left), an arrival from Feyenoord in the summer of 2011, is a Dutch team-mate of several members of the Ajax side, and believes we face a tough test despite being the home side.
‘It’s a big night for me because they’re a Dutch team and I know almost all their players. A lot of them play for the Dutch national team, so I definitely want to win,’ said the 17-year-old, who has been fielded increasingly more regularly as a holding midfielder, rather than his usual defensive slot, in recent weeks.
‘I am close with some of them and know their games well, and I’m looking forward to playing against them. Ajax has some very good players and I know it will be very tough for us to play against them.
‘People still think of Ajax as the biggest team and they have a great Academy, which teaches them to play good football, the way Chelsea like to also.
‘We play them away in January, but the game on Wednesday is important because we have home advantage. We know it will be difficult but we hope to win this game.’
If we are to guarantee progress into the knockout stages in our first entry into the NextGen, then we will need to get the better of the Amsterdam club over the two forthcoming games, with an away date yet to be confirmed post-Christmas.
For the developing players who hope to be the stars of tomorrow, the competition has provided a taste of what European tests are to come at senior level.
‘The tournament gives a great occasion and there are some good teams in it, so it’s interesting to see the level of our team against teams in other countries,’ Ake explained.
‘It’s a little different from the FA Youth Cup, which is just on one day and if you lose you are out, so that has more pressure, but this is a big tournament as well and we definitely want to go through to the next round.’
You can see Dermot Drummy’s Under-19s take their first steps to qualification at the EBB Stadium tonight. Entry is £5 for adults and £1 concessions. Kick-off is 7pm, with updates to come from the official Chelsea Twitter feed.