NEXTGEN PREVIEW: LAST FOUR MEET BY THE LAKE

Taking place 700 miles away from England's capital city, a London derby with a difference will be played today in northern Italy, certainly one novel for youth development-level football.

Chelsea's first season of a participation in the NextGen Series, the Under-19s competition for clubs across Europe which is in its second year, comes to a climax by the shores of Lake Como over Easter Weekend.

A steady group campaign which saw our Under-19s managed by Dermot Drummy achieve their most notable results away from home, with a win against CSKA Moscow and a high-scoring draw in Amsterdam against Ajax, was followed by a flourishing in the knockout stages when the famous names of Barcelona and Juventus were dispatched in one-leg ties.

Under 19s

The team has been growing stronger and stronger, and the reward is a semi-final against Arsenal on the same neutral turf that will hold all the remaining games to decide this season's NextGen champions.

Only Sporting Lisbon prevent the certainty of an English win. Away against Tottenham in the quarter-final the Portuguese side conceded a last-gasp equaliser, only to cruise to victory in extra time. They will play Aston Villa today after the Chelsea v Arsenal game.

The Gunners Under-19 side came second in a group that was topped by Olympiacos, knocked out last round by Villa, and also contained Marseille and Athletic Bilbao.

In the next stage Arsenal beat last year's winners Inter Milan away and CSKA Moscow at home - both times by a single goal.

In most seasons there would already be familiarity between the Chelsea and Arsenal players but with the recent restructuring of the league formats, the two clubs have not played each other at either Under-18 or Under-21 level this campaign.

'It is an interesting game today,' says Drummy. 'The fact it is staged at Lake Como means it is something different for the boys to travel and play a semi-final here.

'We enjoy playing Arsenal anywhere. In the Under-21 league we didn't qualify for the elite league for the second part of the season and if we had we would have played Arsenal.

'But [assistant coach] Andy Myers and I went to the Emirates and watched them play CSKA Moscow and they were a little more direct than Arsenal sides I am used to watching, but on their day they can play in the middle third of the pitch and they are still very good at attacking.

'I think they will leave us spaces to exploit,' he predicts, 'because Arsenal's philosophy is to play attacking football and so is ours so it should be a very close game but an entertaining one.'

There has been an evolution in the Chelsea Under-19 side during the NextGen campaign, with midfielder Lewis Baker and centre-back Alex Davey the only two to have started all eight games. Tournament joint-top scorer Islam Feruz has started seven with one sub appearance. He has six goals to his name. Versatile left-sider Adam Nditi, 16-year-old schoolboy Jeremie Boga and midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek have also started more than half the games, as has goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney.

'We started off in this competition with players like Lucas Piazon, Nathaniel Chalobah, Patrick Bamford, Todd Kane and George Saville, more senior players who have since gone on loan,' explains Drummy.

'The boys who have come in have been younger ones who have done fantastically well to go to Barcelona and perform and win there, and then to play against Juventus the best attacking football I have seen in my years in development, that was an outstanding performance.

'So the young ones have really taken the task on and this squad bar Danny Pappoe will be young enough to be a Youth Cup side, so to play in an Under-19 tournament and be worthy of a place in the semi-finals is an outstanding achievement.'

next gen

The majority of the squad arrived in Como early Thursday afternoon, swapping the chill of London for torrential rain in Lombardy. They trained in the early evening for the last time before the game and will be joined today by members of the England Under-17 side who were in action on Thursday afternoon in a qualification tournament.

'We are fortunate that Ruben Loftus-Cheek didn't play the last England game and Alex Kiwomya only played 10 minutes,' says Drummy. 'Charlie Colkett scored and made one of the goals. It makes them available for selection and it gives me options. It is good experience they are getting with England but those three added to our performance against Juventus.'

Como's renowned views were obscured by the weather on Thursday but the forecaster for today is drier. All the games take place at the Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia on the lake's shore. Kick-off is 2pm UK time with delayed coverage of the match on Chelsea TV at 4.30pm UK time.

There will be match updates on our @chelseafc Twitter feed.