Fourth-place Chelsea travel to sixth-place Manchester United in tonight’s (Friday’s) Under-21 Premier League match at Leigh Sports Village, a game that can be viewed live on Chelsea TV.
Dermot Drummy’s side have games in hand on the sides above them in the league table and will be looking for a positive result in the north-west as they seek to claim a top-four finish. That would see them progress to the play-off semi-finals at the end of the campaign.
The bulk of the Under-21 group were involved in the Under-19s’ defeat to Schalke in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals on Sunday, and Drummy feels the tough trip to Manchester has come at a good time to test the character of his squad.
Speaking to the official Chelsea website before the game, he said: ‘Manchester United is a great game to have after the Schalke match. We need to get back to winning ways and the motivation should be there as always to play United.
‘We know the league is getting very tight at the top and we want to keep our winning streak [three consecutive victories in the league] going so we can stay in the top four. The lads know they under-performed against Schalke and this is the moment to answer those questions and to go out and put in a determined performance.’
Seven points separate the Blues in fourth and leaders Fulham, though Chelsea have four games in hand on both Southampton and the Cottagers above them and Drummy acknowledges the fight to make the semi-finals will be tight.
‘Everyone at the top is winning so we have to keep winning too, otherwise you can find yourselves in seventh or eighth quite easily. We’re going out to win this league and the players have got to come away and play a difficult game where everyone is focused for the team. That’s the most important thing.
‘Ours is a very young team playing in an Under-21 league and this is the time in the season when everybody needs to up their game. We’re coming towards the business end and it’s about mentality and everybody pulling together as a team as much as anything else.’
The young Blues will be bolstered by the presence of Dutch international Marco van Ginkel, as the 21-year-old midfielder continues his rehabilitation from an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in September’s Capital One Cup victory over Swindon. Drummy revealed the intention is for Van Ginkel to play 45 minutes against the reigning Under-21 champions tonight.
‘Marco has trained in the sessions with us this week and it’s nice for him after a long period out. I’m sure the medical staff are very happy to get him back involved and to see how he goes. It’s massive for him to get that confidence back and he’ll only get that by playing in games. It’s been great to have him on board. He’s a really focused lad and we’re glad he can come and be a part of it for his rehabilitation.
‘We’ve had two days with everyone down at Cobham and I know the coaching staff are experienced enough to help the boys respond from Sunday’s disappointment. We need to have that fighting mentality to pick ourselves back up. There’s no point playing the victim and feeling sorry for yourselves.’
This evening’s game between Chelsea and Manchester United takes place at Leigh Sports Village with kick-off at 7pm. Entry is free.
The game will be screened live on Chelsea TV, with coverage starting at 6.55pm. You can also follow match updates on our twitter feed @chelseafc
Chelsea TV will also be screening Chelsea Under-21s versus Blackburn Rovers next Friday, 28 March, and Arsenal Under-21s versus Chelsea Under-21s on Friday 18 April, with both broadcasts starting at 7pm.