In the absence of first team football this midweek, attention returns to our FA Youth Cup campaign and a semi-final second leg against Arsenal at the Emirates tomorrow [Thursday], a game that is live on Chelsea TV.
Adi Viveash’s youngsters take a 2-1 advantage to north London after goals from Charlie Colkett and Alex Kiwomya in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week and will be looking to secure a place against Fulham in the final.
Despite their lead at the midway point of the tie, Viveash insists the approach will be identical to every other match and his team will be going to the Emirates to win. Speaking to the official Chelsea website ahead of the encounter, he said: ‘We’re going there to win the game of football. We don’t play any differently.
‘These are all developing players so you have to learn from every game. We’ve certainly looked back at the first leg and there are areas where we need to improve on, as well as the many areas in which we did well and we want to maintain, and that’s the same with every game. I won’t be thinking about the first leg unless it becomes relevant with about 10 minutes to go.’
Looking back on the victory in SW6, Viveash felt the scoreline flattered the visitors and indicated his side’s attacking prowess would stand them in good stead as they look to reach a successive Youth Cup final.
‘The scoreline at the end of the game makes it sound like it was close but I don’t feel it was a close game. We created numerous opportunities and we took a couple and didn’t take a couple but the one thing I’m very confident about ahead of the game at the Emirates is that we’re going to create chances to score goals.
‘That’s the way this team plays and there are too many weapons in the team for it not to happen. We can get goals from all over the pitch and hopefully that will be the case on Thursday.’
The manager praised the efforts of second-year scholar Jordan Houghton in midfield and indicated his pleasure with the way in which the midfield trio of Houghton, Colkett and captain Ruben Loftus-Cheek fared in the competitive battleground in the middle of the field.
‘Jordan did everything that I asked of him and executed the game plan excellently. He brings great experience and desire and the balance in midfield was very good. They complemented each other really well but the challenge for them, if selected, is they have to do it again in the away game. I’ve got a nice selection problem again, like I had before the first leg, and I’ll hopefully get it right again and the players will get it right with what they produce.’
The nature of a two-legged tie is even rarer in youth football than it is with the first team, however Viveash reckons he and his staff have gained the experience in recent years to give themselves an edge in their preparation.
‘We’re lucky in that, as a group of staff that has largely remained the same for the last three years, we know what playing two legs is all about. We’ve had both sides of the coin, having gone to Norwich in the first leg of the final last year, and winning both legs against Liverpool in the semi-finals, so we’ll be ready for it.
‘I’m sure it will be another fantastic game. They are two quality teams with some of the best young players in the country and a lot of English talent as well and that’s what you want at the highest level of youth football. As long as the boys perform to the levels that they can, I’m sure they will do everybody proud.’
The first leg saw the young Blues come from behind to claim victory, a scenario they repeated from the previous round where they defeated Newcastle at St James’ Park and a feature of Youth Cup runs of the last few years. It is a spirit that Viveash praised once again after the win at Stamford Bridge and a quality he feels could prove decisive in the tie.
‘Over the years, certainly while I’ve been the manager, the team has a record of coming back in difficult situations and that builds character. The likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Alex Kiwomya and Mitchell Beeney have been in and around the squad for the last three years and they’ve seen it and experienced it.
‘When you’ve been through it you stay calm in certain situations and that’s what happened in the first leg. We didn’t panic when we conceded because we’ve been there before. If you haven’t been in that situation then you don’t quite know what you’re facing and that’s the position Arsenal are in now. It’s been quite a smooth passage for them in the competition this year and this is the first game they’ve lost so they’ll find out a lot about themselves in this match.’
There is no away goals rule in the FA Youth Cup.
Kick-off at the Emirates is 7.45pm
Tickets for this fixture are on general sale (maximum of 10 per person), priced adults £4, juniors (under 16s) £2, seniors (over 65) £2. They are now only on sale to callers at the Stamford Bridge box office until 5pm on Wednesday 16 April.
Chelsea TV’s coverage begins at 7.30pm.
– By Sam Poplett