Chelsea’s development squad travel to Oxford United in the EFL Trophy this evening (Tuesday) for the 2020/21 season opener. Kick-off is 7pm and match updates will be provided on our official @chelseafc Twitter.
The young Blues will make the trip west up the M40 to take on familiar opponents in this competition. Here, we preview the action and hear the thoughts of development squad head coach Andy Myers ahead of the group opener.
Four years after academy teams were first invited to compete in the Football League Trophy on a trial basis, the inclusion of 16 of the country’s top Under-21 teams alongside the clubs from League One and League Two has now been approved on a permanent basis, with Chelsea accepting the invitation for the fifth consecutive campaign.
With Joe Edwards at the helm in 2017/18, our run to the semi-final remains the furthest any academy side has reached in the competition, when only a penalty shootout defeat at the hands of eventual winners Lincoln City denied our youngsters a trip to Wembley. We also made it out of the group stage last term with a last-gasp win over Plymouth Argyle at Home Park but were eliminated by Walsall in the first knockout round.
The draw this season has placed the young Blues in a group which returns us to Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Ground, where a narrow 2-1 defeat last term meant The Gas toppped the group. There is also a return to Walsall’s Banks’s stadium, where a home comeback last season ended our cup run.
The development squad ended a positive pre-season with a 4-0 win over Millwall at Cobham on Friday afternoon. There were also wins over Charlton and Crystal Palace with Thierno Ballo among the goals, the Austrian notching two in the season’s preparations.
The Us from League One are the opponents for our EFL Trophy opener. The hosts kicked off their season at the weekend with a 4-3 win on penalties over AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup first round.
View from the dressing room
This was Andy Myers’ second pre-season as boss of the development squad and this year’s preparations have been like no other, with travel concerns having limited all of our opponents to come from London.
Myers’s men welcomed Charlton, Crystal Palace and Millwall in the short summer break, all fixtures which have given the coaching staff a good opportunity to work with some of the younger players in the group on a consistent basis for the first time, and the boss has been pleased with what he has seen so far.
‘The new squad is looking really good,' he told the official Chelsea website when reflecting on the unusual summer programme. 'We will again be a young squad and with that comes a change of dynamics but in the circumstances I’ve been very pleased with the pre-season programme.'
Myers sees the EFL Trophy as an important competition for player development but recognises the benefit it has for coaches as well, describing it as a learning experience for everyone.
‘It’s a great competition for this age group and it’s one that most of the boys need to play in and be part of,’ he continued. ‘It’s a good thing for players to see what’s needed to further their career and develop parts of their game which they might not while playing Under-23s football.
'I think it’s a massive learning experience for all, players and coaches included, and hopefully we can bring that bit of knowledge into this season’s competition.
'We’re all looking forward to getting the season started but we can’t live in the past. We’ve got to now think about the development side of things with a new batch of players in what may turn out to be an even younger squad than we had last season.’
A convincing 3-0 win over Oxford United in the 2017/18 quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge was the result the last time we met in this competition. Harvey St Clair, Daishawn Redan and Juan Castillo were among the goals that night.
The most memorable meeting is the 13-12 win after penalties for the young Blues at the Bridge following a 1-1 draw in normal time during the 2016/17 season. Kurt Zouma was in the line-up for Chelsea on the day and scored both of his penalties in the record-breaking shootout success.
2020/21 Academy squad numbers
Karlo Ziger 40Luke McCormick 41Juan Castillo 42Jack Wakely 43Jon Russell 44George McEachran 45Dynel Simeu 46Henry Lawrence 47Pierre Ekwah Elimby 48Thierno Ballo 49George Nunn 50Marcel Lewis 51Ian Maatsen 52Sam McClelland 53Lewis Bate 54Tino Anjorin 55Levi Colwill 56Tino Livramento 57Myles Peart-Harris 58Dion Rankine 59Xavier Simons 60Josh Brooking 61Bashir Humphreys 62Charlie Wiggett 63Bryan Fiabema 64Ben Elliott 65Joe Haigh 66Harvey Vale 67Charlie Webster 68Ethan Wady 70Lucas Bergstrom 71Prince Adegoke 72Kelechi Chibueze 73
How to follow
We will have team news and updates via the official Chelsea Twitter and have a full match report on this website following full-time.