FA Youth Cup Final Second Leg Preview

Chelsea’s youth team take on Blackburn Rovers this evening at Ewood Park looking to secure a second FA Youth Cup crown in three years.

A 4-0 win in the first leg at Stamford Bridge just shy of three weeks ago makes the Blues overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy but everyone involved with the academy has been keen to avoid complacency, stressing that the tie is not over.

What they say in public and what they actually believe may well be two different things of course, and realistically nothing short of a catastrophe should prevent them from coming out on top, but football can and will throw up surprises of epic proportions.

Blackburn are certainly a capable side and showed that in the early stages of the first leg, when they threatened to take control of the tie. Strong and athletic, they built their game around the aerial prowess of centre-back Ryan Edwards and striker Curtis Haley and the speed and trickery of Osayamen Osawe and Raheem Hanley.

Fortunately for Chelsea, Jamal Blackman was on on form to keep Rovers at bay and once they settled and got a foothold in the game, their superior football took over.

First half goals from Nathaniel Chalobah and Lewis Baker were followed by a brace from Islam Feruz after the break to give the youngsters a lead they now take to Lancashire in hope of finishing the job.

Ten of the eleven are almost certain to retain their places, with the only change being an enforced one. Nathan Aké is currently away captaining the Netherlands Under-17 team in the European Championships in Slovenia, meaning Alex Davey will have a new partner at centre-back.

Manager Adi Viveash has a few options available to him. He could simply bring in second-year Archange Nkumu for what would be his final appearance in the competition, or he could move captain Chalobah back from midfield and add someone in alongside John Swift and Lewis Baker.

If Chalobah is to move back, schoolboy Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be the man to benefit. He started the season in excellent form, averaging a goal every other game before suffering a long-term hip problem which has sidelined him since December.

However, he has returned to match fitness and has travelled north with the squad and is an option to play.

The hosts, meanwhile, have something of a dilemma. They beat Newcastle on Saturday to line up a national Academy League Final against Fulham on Saturday, and they could well feel that their chances of winning that one-off fixture at Craven Cottage are greater than overturning a four-goal deficit.

Boss Terry McPhillips rested four of his starters at the weekend with tonight in mind but may opt to mix things up again and simply try to play for pride at Ewood Park and silverware at the weekend.

Whatever the line-ups, you can expect the hosts to start well, look to assert themselves on the game and attempt to make Chelsea nervous. If the Blues can see off the initial burst in front of what will be a healthy crowd, they should be able to get into the game and control it, hopefully culminating in a much-deserved celebration at full time.

The match is live and exclusive on Chelsea TV with a 7pm kickoff. If you can’t watch, and if you can’t be at Ewood Park (tickets on the door, £5 adults, £3 concessions), you can keep right up to date with events by following @chelseayouth on Twitter.