DRUMMY AND BAKER RELISHING EUROPEAN CHALLENGE
In the build-up to our opening UEFA Youth League game against FC Basel at Cobham, Dermot Drummy and Lewis Baker have been looking ahead to a new competition and testing ourselves against European opposition in a match that can be viewed live on Chelsea TV (Click for details).
The inaugural Under-19s' competition will mirror the senior Champions League during the group stages with our youngsters, managed by Drummy, facing the same opposition as the first team.
The Swiss side are first up later today, and the Blues boss is looking forward seeing how his team cope with the different demands placed upon them.
'In terms of age group, we only lose three players - Jamal Blackman, Adam Nditi and Alex Davey - from the squad that's performing well,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'That shows firstly how young we are in the Under-21s but also that we should have expectations of progressing in this competition.
'The intensity of the way we play and the challenge to get in the team means the boys have an attitude where they don't want to lose their place.
'I've been pleased with our recent performances, but we don't know Basel, and looking at their first team and the way they played last season I'm sure it will be a good game.'
While the tournament itself is a new format, a number of our players were given a taste of European football last season when we competed - and finished as beaten finalists - in the NextGen Series.
'The NextGen was a massive competition for all of us, the players and staff,' he explains. 'Travelling to places such as Russia and then going so close to winning it in Lake Como makes us even more desperate to do well this time.
'Experience helps you along the way and even though playing against European teams won't be completely new to us, it will be interesting for the younger players we're going to add to the squad, so it gives them something to aim for.'
Baker, who was captain of that NextGen side, is hoping the players' experience in the NextGen will allow them to make a significant impact in the UEFA Youth League.
'It's great for us being able to play some of the best teams from across Europe and mirroring what the first team are doing,' he says.
'It's going to be a tough game. Their first team are in the Champions League so they're obviously going to be a quality side at our age group as well. We certainly won't be taking anything for granted but hopefully we can get the win.
'Last season the NextGen was a great tournament and we did well to get to the final. We played some great teams along the way such as Barcelona and Juventus [pictured below] and we competed really well against them.'
Baker has been an ever-present this season for the Under-21s who, since losing the opening game of the campaign against Tottenham Hotspur, have gone on to win our last three in a row, most recently against Norwich City last Friday.
The versatile midfielder, who played alongside Josh McEachran and Billy Clifford in the 2-0 win against the Canaries, hopes we can continue our run of form against the Swiss side.
'We're definitely confident, we've gone three games unbeaten now so everybody's really looking forward to the game. There's a great atmosphere within the group and we've really been enjoying training,' he says.
Please note that no spectators will be admitted to the training ground for this fixture.