Our development squad return to action in the Premier League International Cup this evening (Friday), with Dinamo Zagreb the visitors to Aldershot. Here, the official Chelsea website previews the encounter...
The Blues are unbeaten in seven coming into the contest with the Croatians, after winning three of the past four, including their opener in this competition, a 2-1 victory over Feyenoord. Adi Viveash’s side have scored 14 goals in that time, with Dujon Sterling netting the most with three, although they continue to hunt a first clean sheet since mid-October.
Like Chelsea, Dinamo Zagreb have also played just one game in Group D, a 0-0 draw in south Wales against Swansea City. Our record in the past 25 meetings at Academy level against European opposition reads P25 W19 D3 L3.
Last time out
A Premier League 2 victory over Manchester United at Aldershot lifted us to fifth in the table a week ago, our final league outing of the calendar year. The visitors headed themselves into an early lead before strikes from Sterling, Josimar Quintero and Jacob Maddox turned the encounter on its head in front of over 2,000 spectators.
View from the dressing room
Kyle Scott featured in our Premier League International Cup campaign last term and he believes the competition provides important challenges against experienced opponents. However, the midfielder also makes it clear that those in the Blues dressing room are determined to compete deep into the tournament this season, following defeat in the semi-finals last year.
‘It’s another opportunity for us to face older players and different kinds of foreign opponents than we did in the UEFA Youth League,’ Scott tells the official Chelsea website. ‘A lot of the foreign teams play their ‘B’ teams in the competition, who are used to playing in senior leagues and you can tell that when you play against them.
‘We spoke as a group that we’re looking forward, we want to try to win the competition this season and I think we have the ability to do that. We only have 10 league games in the second half of the season so everyone wants to get through this group and continue in the competition.’
We spoke as a group that we're looking forward, we want to try to win the competition this season and I think we have the ability to do that.
The midfielder has featured predominantly in a deeper midfield role this season for Adi Viveash’s side, where he is asked to utilise his technical qualities and reading of the game to dictate the tempo of contests from the middle of the field. It is a task he has thrived upon, as he explains the various demands of the job.
‘I’ve adapted to quite a few positions over the years and this season I’ve played more in a deeper midfield role alongside someone else in a two,’ he continues. ‘I enjoy playing in that position, trying to create things from deeper and linking play up the pitch. You are relied upon to do two jobs because you need to be creative on the ball and make sure our team has control of the game, but when we’re attacking you also have to talk to your midfield partner to make sure one of you is in front of the defence, especially with the system we’re playing at the moment. It’s a challenge but I feel I’m doing well in there.’
A 3-1 win over Manchester United in the league seven days ago has seen confidence surging through the group this week and Scott believes it can push the team on to end the calendar year strongly. Only the group winners are guaranteed progress in the International Cup so the Blues are targeting three points against Dinamo Zagreb, before rounding off the year against Swansea City in the group finale next week.
‘I think the United result was our biggest win of the season so far. After the spell we’d had, it came at the right time and we needed that lift but to get it against United was even better. They are a good team and it was a tough game for us.
‘The teams we’ve faced this season have been a lot more physical and some of them play a few first team players as well, which gives us a good opportunity to show what we can do against them. It’s been a good season for us so far, we’re proud of each other but we know we have to kick on now.’
The contest is the first time a Chelsea side at any level, including first team, have faced opposition from Croatia in a competitive fixture. Our one and only meeting of any kind came back in May 1937, when we beat Gradjanski 1-0 in Zagreb in a friendly.
The most recent Croatian to play for our first team was Mario Stanic (pictured above), for four years from 2000. The attacking midfielder made 80 appearances under Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri, scoring on 10 occasions. His most memorable strike came on his league debut against West Ham, a crashing volley from distance after juggling the ball up on to his knee and then firing into the top corner at the Matthew Harding end of the ground at Stamford Bridge.
How to watch
Aldershot Town is the venue for tonight’s European action and admission is free for all spectators. Kick-off is at 7.05pm, with the action screened live on Chelsea TV. There will also be coverage throughout the evening on our official Twitter @chelseafc