YOUTH CUP PREVIEW: YOUNG DANE READY FOR DERBY TEST
Defender Andreas Christensen discusses Friday's FA Youth Cup tie away at Derby, a match that can be viewed live on Chelsea TV…
Andreas Christensen has had quite a busy start to life at Chelsea, having been involved in all four youth competitions while juggling early-season international commitments, and he is now eager to be involved as we reach the business end of the campaign.
The defender started the last two FA Youth Cup games and netted the young Blues' first goal at the Valley against Charlton in January, commencing a recovery that turned a two-goal deficit into a 3-2 win. That was a fourth-round tie, the defence of the trophy having started with a third-round win at Colchester. After beating Charlton, Barnsley were defeated comfortably at home.
'Our first goal against Charlton was an important goal to get the whole comeback going,' the young Dane, who turns 17 next month, tells the official Chelsea website ahead of the Youth Cup quarter-final on Friday night. 'It was also my first Chelsea goal so it was a really good feeling.'
After signing from Brondby in the summer, Christensen's presence at Cobham was sporadic as he headed off on various international excursions with the Danish Under-17s, scoring two late headed goals in the final of the Syrenka Cup to secure victory. He didn't make his first Chelsea appearance until mid-September, both for the Under-21s and Under-18s, and then was absent again until early October.
'The first half of the season I didn't play that much,' he reflects. 'I had a lot of national team games so in the start I didn't play but in the second half of the season I've been involved a lot more. I thought I would probably play more with the Under-18s but I've only played once, against Liverpool, so it's really nice to be with the Under-21s.'
It is with Dermot Drummy's side that Christensen has played the majority of his football this season and he is one of a group of Under-21 regulars, along with the likes of Alex Davey, Lewis Baker and Islam Feruz, who have dropped down from that side to feature in the Youth Cup this season.
'It's working with different players but it's nice,' Christensen says. 'It makes no difference for me as they're still my team, my team-mates, so I have to work hard for them.
'In the week before the game we have the group together and we prepare and focus with tactics. I haven't played Derby before but it should be a really good tie.
'Adi [Viveash - Chelsea's youth team manager] told us they're a team that works together, they're running the whole time, pushing hard, so it will be a really tough game.'
Christensen has some pedigree of successfully coming through tough cup encounters, starring in a couple of international tournaments in the late summer and also enjoying domestic cup success with Brondby before he joined the Blues, while this term he has established himself in our NextGen side, who recently beat Barcelona in Spain to secure a last-eight place in that European Under-19 competition.
'We only have one cup in Denmark,' he says. 'I played almost every game in it and it was really good. We won the league and we won the cup. It's a little different because here you have Under-21s coming down as well, while there it's just Under-17s that play against another Under-17 team, so it's more age groups in Denmark.'
The FA Youth Cup gives the opportunity for young players to experience the excitement of a knockout cup clash at a first-team stadium, something Viveash's side have already revelled in at the Valley this campaign, and will look forward to once more at Pride Park.
'We've been told it should be a big crowd so I'm looking forward to it,' Christensen says. 'You can feel the difference with a big crowd, especially away when you hear the people shouting the other team's name, though hopefully we'll have some people singing for Chelsea on Friday too.'
If a place in the last four is not incentive enough for the young Blues, with either Hull City or Liverpool lying in wait, a two-legged semi-final is sure to see a return for Youth Cup football to Stamford Bridge, which last hosted a game back in April when goals from Nathaniel Chalobah, Baker and a Feruz double saw Chelsea race into a 4-0 first-leg lead in the final.
'That would be only my second time at Stamford Bridge,' he adds. 'I played once against Middlesbrough so hopefully we can get there again.'
Chelsea TV's live coverage of the game begins at 6.30pm on Friday.
The game will take place at Derby's Pride Park, kick-off 7pm.
Chelsea season ticket holders will be permitted entry to the game for free on production of their 2012/13 season ticket.
Ticket prices for all other supporters are £3 for adults and £1 for children, and can be purchased on the night at the stadium. Fans are advised to arrive early.