UYL preview: Tests against the best

The return of European knockout football continues tonight (Wednesday) with our Under-19s in UEFA Youth League action against Feyenoord at Aldershot.

Back-to-back winners in this competition in 2015 and 2016, Joe Edwards’s side will be aiming to maintain their strong reputation on the continental stage by booking a place in the quarter-finals with victory against their Dutch counterparts.

Two of those to have featured already this campaign have a unique insight into both camps as Netherlands Under-17 internationals Daishawn Redan and Juan Castillo hope to be selected again by Edwards this evening.

Redan made his only group-stage appearance in December’s 4-2 win over Atletico Madrid, a game in which his compatriot bagged a brace to ensure our progress as group winners. Castillo was involved in all six matchday squads in the group stage and reflects on the different tests provided by coming up against elite European opposition.

‘It’s been a good experience,’ the 18-year-old tells the official Chelsea website. ‘When you’re young, it’s good to test yourselves against players from other countries. You can see the difference between the way they play and the way we play so it’s always good.

Castillo has six goals for the season, including this winner in our Under-18 Premier League Cup quarter-final win at Sunderland.

‘The group stage was tough because in our group we had Roma and Atletico, who are two big clubs, plus Qarabag who were a hard team to play against because they sat off and defended a lot. We had to take every game seriously but we did well, showed what we wanted to show and won the group.’

Castillo has played a number of roles on the left side since signing from Ajax in summer 2016 and his positive performances have earned him promotion to our development squad. He was particularly impressive as a defender in our Checkatrade Trophy campaign and believes his growing versatility for both Edwards and Jody Morris in our youth team, for which he is still eligible, stands him in good stead for the future.

‘I’ve played these positions before at Ajax but I was mainly as number eight in midfield so was more used to playing centrally,’ he continues. ‘It’s quite new for me to play left wing-back but it’s good for my education and development. If I know every position well, that’s important so I can step in whenever the manager asks me.

‘I’m involved in a lot of competitions right now and it’s always good to play with the Under-18s because they ask more from you as an older player. You have to show you’re coming from the development squad level and show good character. If someone is not doing the warm-up right before a game, you have to tell them and make sure you’re a leader in the team.’

Our most recent Academy debutant, Kyle Scott, scored the only goal when we last faced Dutch opposition in the UEFA Youth League.

Born in Amsterdam, Castillo was 16 and on the brink of making his decision to join Chelsea when we last faced Dutch opposition in the UEFA Youth League. Kyle Scott’s goal settled a close, tactical contest at Cobham in March 2016 to send us to the finals weekend in Nyon, where we beat Anderlecht and PSG to retain the European crown.

‘It was a weird feeling for me because it was just before I left Ajax and I didn’t know how to react when Chelsea scored,’ remembers Castillo. ‘I watched some games before that and knew Chelsea won a lot of trophies every season, which is why I came here to compete and push my development further.’

With a quarter-final in the FA Youth Cup scheduled for next week and a place in the Under-18 Premier League Cup final already secured, the business end of the campaign is looming for our Academy sides. It provides an opportunity to continue their insatiable desire for winning but also a chance to benchmark against the best in England and Europe.

Chelsea Under-19s - route to the last-16

Date Opponent Result Scorers

Sep 2017

Qarabag (h)

W 5-0

Hudson-Odoi, McCormick (3), Brown

Sep 2017

Atletico (a)

W 3-1

Brown, Sterling, Maddox

Oct 2017

Roma (h)

L 0-2

Oct 2017

Roma (a)

W 2-1

Sterling, Taylor-Crossdale

Nov 2017

Qarabag (a)

W 3-1

Taylor-Crossdale, Brown, McEachran

Dec 2017

Atletico (h)

W 4-2

St Clair, Castillo (2), McCormick

Feyenoord were runners-up to Manchester City in the group stage, forcing them into a play-off game against Slovakian side FC Nitra, which they came from behind to win 3-2. Castillo’s knowledge of the side from Rotterdam is better than most and he expects a difficult test against a disciplined but threatening team.

‘This is the most important part of the season. As a player, you have to make sure you’re fit and your diet is good because you need to be ready for every game.

‘Feyenoord have some good ball players and their unit as a team is very strong so we know they will fight hard for each other. We will have to be on top of our game to win because they are a very dangerous attacking team but also very organised.’

Aldershot Town hosts tonight’s UEFA Youth League last-16 encounter between Chelsea Under-19s and Feyenoord, with kick-off at 7pm. Supporters wishing to attend can purchase tickets on the door priced at just £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, while Chelsea season ticket holders will be granted free entry with a valid 2017/18 season ticket card.

Chelsea TV will screen a full 90-minute re-run of the game at 11pm, while there will also be updates throughout the evening on our official @chelseafc Twitter. The winners of the tie will face a trip to either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the last-eight.