Chelsea Under-19s are in the Nordic town of Boras for their latest assignment in the UEFA Youth League.
Joe Edwards’s side successfully overcame the two-legged challenge of Molde in the previous round and now take on another Scandinavian opponent, Sweden’s IF Elfsborg, with the first leg away. Here, the official Chelsea website previews the contest…
Sixteen teams remain in the Domestic Champions pathway after the first round of action, with just eight places in the play-off round up for grabs. The Blues will host a one-legged tie against one of the UEFA Champions League path runners-up if they advance, after which all remaining sides come together for the Round of 16.
Last term, two of the eight play-off ties were won by teams from the Domestic Champions side of the draw, while the year before there were four who advanced, including the eventual winners, RB Salzburg.
With 25 weeks to go before the finals weekend in Switzerland, Edwards’s side are aiming to continue their impressive record of reaching the UEFA Youth League final in each of their previous three seasons of involvement.
Elfsborg defeated KR Reykjavik in the first knockout round, winning 2-1 in the capital before finishing the job at the 17,000-capacity Boras Arena with a 1-0 victory. Their home ground is located in the railway city of Boras, 40 miles from Gothenburg.
The Swedes also beat Icelandic opposition in their only other campaign in the competition in 2015/16, triumphing 2-1 on aggregate against Stjarnan and then knocking out the Serbian side FK Rad before eventually bowing out in the play-off round to Real Madrid.
View from the dressing room
Marc Guehi was involved in April’s final against Barcelona and the defender believes the opportunity to make amends for that disappointing defeat is driving the dressing room this campaign. The 18-year-old played three times for Edwards’s Under-19s last term and was drafted into the starting XI for the Catalan contest in place of the suspended Trevoh Chalobah.
‘I think redemption is a big motivation for us this season,’ Guehi told the official Chelsea website after training at the Boras Arena on Tuesday evening. ‘We had a fantastic campaign last year reaching the final but we were disappointed to lose the way we did.
'This season our aim is to try to get as far as possible again and see if we can win the competition this time.’
— Marc Guehi
The trip to Sweden presents a sixth game in 18 days for our development squad and Under-19s, a challenging schedule for a mostly teenage team.
‘It’s been a bit of a tough spell with a lot of games so credit to the staff for keeping us on top of our regime and keeping us in good condition, and credit to the lads for going out there and giving it our all game after game,’ the youngster continued.
‘This is another one that we have to go again, apply ourselves and give our best for the team again. We’re really excited for the game and hopefully we can come away with a win.’
Results have been largely positive during this busy spell for the group, with the development squad up to third in Premier League 2 after a crazy 5-4 win away at Arsenal at the weekend and through to the Checkatrade Trophy knockout stages, while the Under-19s are eyeing continued progress on the continent.
‘Morale in the group is high, obviously on the back of the last tie and getting through with a big scoreline which gives us a lot of confidence to come into this game and again try to prove ourselves,’ Guehi added.
‘Elfsborg are a team we don’t really know much about but if we apply ourselves properly then I think we’ll do well and hopefully give ourselves an edge going into the second leg.’
How to watch
Sweden’s Boras Arena hosts the first leg of our second round tie this evening, where kick-off is 5pm UK time and updates will be available on our official @chelseafc Twitter.