Both the first team squad and the Under-19 team have travelled to Germany for the third group stage game of their respective European campaigns and, while Jose Mourinho’s side are looking for another victory to bounce back from their opening defeat at Stamford Bridge to Basel, Dermot Drummy’s side go in search of their third successive UEFA Youth League win after consecutive 4-0 triumphs over their counterparts from Basel and Steaua Bucharest.
Schalke represent a trickier test for the impressive Under-19s, having also won their two opening games, and manager Drummy is fully aware of the challenges awaiting his boys on Tuesday afternoon in the old industrial town of Gelsenkirchen. Speaking to the official Chelsea website he said: ‘It will be a tough game against Schalke but mentally we need to be prepared.
‘The last trip to Romania was very tiring so we’ve got to try to make sure the players recover and look after themselves after the Sunderland game. A lot of the boys have been away on internationals which is tough so I’ll try to give certain players certain minutes so they can go in fresh.
‘I think German football has always produced sides with a great work ethic, a winning mentality and Schalke play good football, but so do we.’
Nine of the starters from the previous group game in Bucharest have been on international duty with their various age groups over the past fortnight, while striker Isaiah Brown is away with the England Under-17s. Drummy has been tasked with juggling the various commitments of his players to ensure they remain in peak condition, however it is a progressive step in their development that he sees as a positive rather than a hindrance.
‘Playing weekend, midweek, weekend is good, it keeps the boys sharp and it keeps competition for places high,’ he continues. ‘As a coach you don’t want to go more than four or five days without a game. It’s important for the boys to see what the first team do in terms of internationals.
‘It’s quite interesting for me as a coach because we played Manchester City after the trip to Romania and I thought mentally we were weak. You realise that the players did really well to stay in that game and win so that’s the sort of development they get. The first team are always travelling and when you’re a successful side you’re in competitions throughout the season so it’s a good development for the boys.’
This season’s participation in UEFA’s inaugural Under-19 competition contrasts with the Blues’ involvement in last year’s NextGen Series, with the UEFA competition running in line with first team Champions League commitments, however Drummy feels it has been a positive experience for his players so far.
‘UEFA have been very strict with the regulations in terms of substitutions, standards and facilities,’ he said. ‘The referees are good and the whole competitions seems to be running like clockwork. Any game against foreign opposition is different, the referees are different, the travel and grounds and environment are all different so it’s part of a new era for the boys.’
Drummy’s Under-21 side, from which the bulk of the Under-19 group is comprised, secured a hard-fought 2-2 draw up at Sunderland on Saturday and the manager has been happy with his side’s form in recent weeks as they bounced back from a couple of early-season defeats.
‘If we look at the results, we deserved to lose against Spurs, we lost the game ourselves against Everton, but we’ve gone on a winning run since then and that’s a good recovery from the boys.
‘That winning mentality is what we want. The boys are learning the meaning of the results now. Sometimes the first team can go and get a draw away somewhere and it’s a good point so we’ve got to have that slight change in the mentality to stay in the game and not open up and that’s a good development for them.’
Highlights of Schalke Under-19s v Chelsea Under-19s can be seen in Chelsea TV’s Matchnight Live this evening.
The game is at Stimberg-Stadion with a 2pm kick-off (local time) and entry is free. There will be updates on our @chelseafc Twitter feed.