Chelsea Under-18s take on Manchester City in the final of tonight’s delayed 2019/20 FA Youth Cup and midfielder Lewis Bate has been speaking to the official Chelsea website ahead of kick-off. You can watch the action live on BT Sport, kick-off 7:30pm.
Tonight, albeit in unfamiliar circumstances, our young Blues have the chance to equal a stunning record held by Manchester United, who have won the FA Youth Cup 10 times in their history.
Our place in a 13th Youth Cup final was booked just three days ago on Friday night when Bryan Fiabema marked his first appearance in the competition with a thumping second-half strike from Tino Livramento’s centre. At the heart of our midfield that evening was Bate, who continues our build-up to the final by sharing his thoughts on the Man United win.
‘The Man United game was huge and we are all confident coming out of it, especially with our individual performances,’ Bate tells the official Chelsea website. ‘We feel like we dominated the game and it’s a good experience beating them. Hopefully we can do the same against Man City but we know it’s two tough games to finish the tournament!
It is an unusual experience for our youngsters to take on two of the biggest games in their young careers in the space of four days and recovery has been key as the group have stayed at St George's Park, the FA's national football centre.
‘It’s a very quick turnaround between the games so we’ve been eating the right foods, we’ve had two days in the ice baths and preparing for the next game as much as we can do,' explained Bate.
‘It’s quite uncommon for us to play two games in four days but it’s something you have to get used to as you grow up and become a professional footballer. You don’t know where your career is going to go and you could be playing every four days like we are now. Our legs won’t be used to it but we have to get on with. It’ll be a good experience.'
Many of the Chelsea youngsters who played in the semi-final are England youth internationals who have had the luxury of being based at St George’s Park during England junior camps. 18-year-old Bate is one of those and he is grateful to finish the competition at such great facilities.
‘It’s been brilliant being at St George’s Park. The team morale is high and the facilities are amazing,’ he continues. ‘We're all sticking together as a team and preparing for the next game because we want to bring the Youth Cup home.
‘A few of us have experience of playing here already with the England youth teams. It’s not new to us, but I know a couple of lads haven’t so it’s new to them. It does feel a little bit weird both games being here, but this year has been really strange and it is what it is. At times we didn’t know if the Youth Cup was going to go ahead, so we’re really grateful it has.’
Read - FA Youth Cup: Our road to the final
Manchester City are familiar final opponents for Chelsea in this competition. We won three consecutive titles between 2015 and 2017, all of which saw Man City succumb to our youth team at the final hurdle.
Tonight’s battle places another two dominant teams face-to-face and Bate believes it will be will be a close game between two sets of players who have competed against each other in youth football for almost a decade.
‘We have had battles with them since we were Under-10s and Under-12s, and they have a lot of great players who play international football, so we know each other really well,’ Bate adds.
‘It’ll be a good game. It’ll be familiar playing against them and it’s always unpredictable. Both teams are strong, especially in this competition, but we will try our best to win.'
The margins could be slim; in 10 games between them in the run to the final, the two sides have conceded just one goal.
‘We haven’t conceded yet which is massive,' concludes Bate. 'We both have great defences and score a lot of goals so at times it might be similar to a chess game where we try and break each other down.’
Our quest for Youth Cup glory starts at 7:30pm live on BT Sport. You can follow how Ed Brand's team get on through our official @chelseafc Twitter account with a report, reaction and highlights on this website following full-time.