Tonight (Thursday) our Under-18s take to the Stamford Bridge turf to play Millwall for a place in the semi-final of this year’s FA Youth Cup. You can watch the action live and for free on the 5th Stand App, kick-off is 7pm.
Ed Brand’s team have come through three rounds unscathed, totalling 16 goals and yet to concede in the competition. Upon reflection on the early rounds, the boss shares his happiness following performances so far, highlighting the display in the Wolves tie particularly.
‘It’s been encouraging,' Brand tells the official Chelsea website as we look ahead to the quarter-final. 'The first two rounds against Huddersfield and Bradford were professional performances without us fully kicking into the standards that I know we are capable of producing.
'Against Wolves, which was a step up in quality of opposition, the boys responded really well and I was very, very pleased with the performance both with and without the ball. There is always room for improvement but the lads have followed the instructions to a tee and we have looked like a really good team with lots of different ways in which to hurt the opposition.
‘The togetherness of the group and how hard they worked for each other was equally as pleasing to see. So far, I’m encouraged but we’re only at the quarter-final stage and we are expecting a very tough, different type of challenge from Millwall.’
Millwall have won 14 of their 19 league games this term, scoring a league-high 61 goals thus far. As a team with good form across all competitions, Brand is expecting a difficult game for his team from their south London counterparts tonight.
‘It goes without saying that we will respect Millwall,' he said. 'They are top of their league, they’ve got through winning three games comfortably and were even down to 10 men in one of those games, which shows they’ve got character and resilience as they have found a way to win.
‘They're at the quarter-final stage for a reason - you don’t get this far without doing something right. We respect them totally and are expecting a difficult game.'
For many of the Under-18s, tonight will be the biggest game of their career so far and their coach admits he won’t ask anything different from his team before the first whistle tonight.
‘I’ll tell them to go out and do what they do every week,' he added. 'There’s a reason why we are performing well in the league and have been all season long. There’s competition for places in this group. There will be a lot of good players not in the team so the boys have to trust and believe in themselves.
'They also need to enjoy and embrace the experience. We’ve used getting to Stamford Bridge as motivation throughout this run so far and you can tell by how they train and how they apply themselves that they are chomping at the bit to experience playing at the Bridge.
'Some of them have done so already and we will draw on those experiences without a shadow of doubt, but for those who haven’t it’ll be a fantastic opportunity. I know they will be as excited as we are as staff to watch them perform and show people what good players they are.’
Chelsea versus Millwall in the FA Youth Cup takes place at Stamford Bridge tonight (Thursday). Please note that tickets are now off sale. Fans in the UK can watch live and for free on this website or the 5th Stand app. The winners of the tie will host Manchester United or Wigan in the semi-final.
Click to read defender Ian Maatsen's thoughts on the game