YOUTH CUP PREVIEW: ON THE VERGE
With our Under 18s heading into the second leg of the FA Youth Cup Final against Blackburn Rovers with a 4-0 advantage, Blues manager Adi Viveash has warned his side to heed the lessons from their own exploits in the competition thus far. The match is live on Chelsea TV.
To say our route to the final has been littered with drama would be something of an understatement. Both Norwich City and West Ham United were dispatched in the earlier rounds courtesy of penalty shoot-outs, while at Nottingham Forest in the quarter-final we fought back from 3-0 down at half-time to win the game 4-3; proof, if it were needed, that anything can happen.
'You have to keep reminding them that we scored four goals in 25 minutes against Forest, so it's easily done,' Viveash tells the official Chelsea website. 'We're confident, and we like to think our players are well-drilled in what they do.
'It's about working on what we're going to do and focusing on ourselves. Yes, we know what Blackburn can do, and we know their strengths, but we'll worry about what we can do and try to execute our gameplan.'
Any side containing players such as Lucas Piazon (pictured below), Amin Affane and Islam Feruz is going to be a serious threat in an attacking sense, but Viveash admits our advantage from the first leg will have absolutely no bearing whatsoever in how we set up.
'Our approach won't change, and it would have been the same if the scores were level or if there was only one goal in it,' he says. 'Tactically, the boys have been very astute and beyond their years so far away from home.
'We had to play in a different way at Norwich because of what we faced and we stuck to the task well. It was a tough first half at Forest, but the players found the answers in the second half and changed the tempo of the game, playing at a fast pace.
'Then, at Manchester United we played a clever tactical game, so for me the approach won't change. It's a game of football we want to win. We'll go with a gameplan which suits our players and is very similar to how we've approached different teams.'
While the Chelsea manager is fully aware that the tie is far from over, and there is still at least 90 minutes of football to play against an accomplished side who, in truth, were the better team during the opening stages of the first leg, the fact remains we are in a favourable position to win the competition.
If we were to win the trophy, it would be a wonderful achievement, not just for the players, but for everybody connected with the Academy, and one made all the more remarkable given the way the club approach youth football, as Viveash admits.
'In youth football it's the biggest competition you play in. At the start of the season you set out with a goal, to try to achieve something. The way our set-up is here, where the top young players get promoted quickly, you don't really get the group together until the third round of the Youth Cup,' he says.
'Those few days leading up to the Doncaster game, I'll look back on them quite a bit in the build-up to this match, because to see how the group is now, from where they were then is an achievement in itself, and they should all be really proud.
'It's been difficult at times, but equally exhilarating at times, and whatever happens on Wednesday evening I'm immensely proud to work with this group and it's been a real privilege, I hope they get what they deserve.'
The impressive recent run of results by the Blues' first team hasn't been lost on Viveash or his young side either.
The two-legged victory over Barcelona in the Champions League secured a place in the final against Bayern Munich on 19 May, while most of the squad were at Wembley on Saturday to see John Terry lift the FA Cup, and Viveash has been delighted with the way Roberto Di Matteo's side have backed his youngsters.
'I've taken a lot of inspiration from the first team. They've been superb throughout the run, John Terry's always been one of the biggest fans of the Academy after coming through himself,' he admits.
'To see so many of the players at the first leg when they had a massive game at Arsenal the following lunchtime, it certainly gave me a lift. It's a very important time for the football club on all fronts, the boys know what's expected, but it's my job to allow them to play with freedom and expression, when they do that they are a very exciting group of players.'
Chelsea TV's exclusive live coverage begins at 6.30pm. It can be watched via online access.
Kick-off is 7pm and tickets will be available for supporters to purchase on the night at Ewood Park.Ticket prices are £5 adults and £3 concessions.The Jack Walker Stand lower tier will be open.
You can also follow tonight's game via live text coverage on this website from approximately 6.45pm. Please note this is a different page from first team game text coverage.