Chelsea’s second reserve game in seven days sees them face a team who inflicted a 6-0 defeat on them in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign, and a match they hope can also serve as a precursor to an FA Youth Cup Semi Final tie between the two.
Back in late 2007 Brendan Rodgers’ boys were beaten heavily in a reserve game played at Villa Park. Marlon Harewood scored a hat-trick, indicative of the relative strengths of the two sides that night. However, with Villa’s squad actually becoming smaller during the January transfer window, the team Kevin MacDonald sends out Monday night at Griffin Park may more closely resemble the successful side that has made it to the last four of the Cup.
Which will help Chelsea’s chances of a win, something that has eluded them at this level since September. Against Fulham last time out, the Blues came back impressively from a 2-0 deficit to equalise in stoppage time courtesy of a debut goal from Argentinian striker Franco di Santo. His impressive debut was as a part of a very young side, one that at full time featured no fewer than six current u18 team players.
The youngsters are getting their fair share of action at the moment, with a number of more established reserve squad members spending their time out on loan or on trial. Without Mancienne, Cork, Bertrand, Worley, Grant, Pettigrew, Simmonds, Bridcutt and Younghusband, the likes of Tejera, Mellis, and van Aanholt have established themselves as key performers at this level. With Sam Hutchinson still suffering from injury, and Scott Sinclair having played for the senior team in the FA Cup, Monday’s team promises to be one of the youngest yet, although in attack the combined talents of Sahar, di Santo, and Stoch are perhaps amongst the most explosive at this level.
Villa have only lost one reserve outing all season and take their performances extremely seriously. They have a proud record of producing excellent footballers and in Nathan Delfouneso they have what they hope to be their next very big thing. The 17 year-old recently signed professional terms and was handed the number 14 shirt for the remainder of the season, even travelling down to Fulham as part of the first-team squad. Some have likened him to Chelsea’s very own Didier Drogba, and whilst he doesn’t have the physique or strength of the Ivorian superstar, he is certainly an explosive player.
Last time out, Villa beat Derby 6-0 to record a win by that scoreline for the second time this season. With six different goalscorers they again showed their quality of depth at reserve level, featuring first-team squad fringe players Wayne Routledge, Isaiah Osbourne, and Mustapha Salifou. Young centre-back Ciaran Clark captains England’s Under-19 team, whilst diminutive midfielder Barry Bannan is very much a threat despite his 5’4” appearance.
The likes of Bannan and Delfouneso have been integral to getting the Villains to the FA Youth Cup Semi Finals, and Under 18 coach Paul Clement will no doubt be in attendance again to get a good look at the players his charges will face if they can beat Port Vale on the 26th of this month. The same will apply for the FAYC eligible players who are likely to play on Monday – Taylor, van Aanholt, Mellis, Kakuta and others. If they can turn in a winning performance their confidence will be buoyed ahead of the all important trip to Port Vale.
Kick off is at 7pm at Brentford’s Griffin Park stadium. Admission is just £5 for adults and £3 for juniors / senior citizens (cash at the turnstiles) and is free for Chelsea Season Ticket holders on production of their card. Why not go along and support the Blues? In terms of getting to Griffin Park, the nearest train station is Brentford, which can be reached by a regular service from Waterloo and Clapham Junction. By tube, Gunnersbury is about one mile from the ground on the District Line. A match report will follow on CFCnet.