The semi-finals of NextGen Series will feature three English clubs after Arsenal booked their place in the final four last night thanks to a beautiful goal from Germany youngster Serge Gnabry against CSKA Moscow. The Gunners will now face Chelsea in an all English clash while Aston Villa will face Sporting Lisbon.
Both of these games will be played on a neutral ground, so home advantage, which has been extremely important this year, counts for nothing. This year’s competitions has been quite a revelation as unlikely teams have progressed to the knock-outs while the likes of Ajax and Barcelona who have a strong line-up were eliminated.
Chelsea have been really impressive this year and the match against fellow London club Arsenal should be a worth a watch as the Gunners can be a stern test. Arsenal and Chelsea are very evenly matched and play similar passing styles. Chelsea’s youth are encouraged to pass short at all times, even when under serious pressure at the back, which players such as Gnabry and Akpom could capitalise on. On the other hand, Chelsea have a wealth of attacking talent and a strong midfield, with Feruz, Ake and Baker all in great form. In short, the match has every chance of going beyond the regulated 90 minutes. The Gunners have been impressive to have come all this way but, but coming off the back of a superb win against the undefeated Juventus, Chelsea will be on a high.
Aston Villa v Sporting Lisbon will be an interesting one. Aston Villa dispatched one of the tournament favourites Ajax with relative ease and can be the real dark horse to go all the way this year. Sporting are a side who have played much more convincingly in home games this season (ignoring the 3-5 thriller to beat Spurs) and it’s difficult to predict how they will fair on neutral turf. Having said that Sporting with the likes of Ricardo Esgaio, Atud Fokobo and Coelho should be a formidable opposition to knock down.
The semi-finals will be played in Giuseppe Sinigaglia, Italy later this week.