Blog: Young guns ready to fire on European stage against Fenerbahce
21st Sep 2011
Continental action is back on the agenda at Villa Park as Turkish giants Fenerbahce arrive for our first home game in the prestigious NextGen Series on Wednesday [September 28].
Coach Kevin MacDonald described the 16-team U19 tournament involving Europe's elite as a step into the unknown for his charges.
Nevertheless, the boys in claret and blue acquitted themselves impressively in their opening Group 3 clash despite going down 2-0 to Holland's Total Football pioneers Ajax.
Ever since the European adventure began in Amsterdam last month, excitement has been building towards Villa's inaugural NextGen home tie, in which the likes of Graham Burke, Samir Carruthers, Derrick Williams, Daniel Johnson and Jordan Graham will have opportunity to sparkle under the Villa Park floodlights against some of Turkish football's most prodigious talents.
"It is an exciting project and because of our record over the years they obviously see us as one of the stronger academies around Europe," said academy director Bryan Jones.
"It is like a small version of the European Cup or Champions League and it is great experience for the younger players.
"It is a big test to see how the players cope with the pressure at playing against some of the biggest teams in Europe.
"Hopefully we can attract some big crowds to Villa Park to support the young players on what should be three memorable nights for them."
NextGen's format pits Villa against three of Europe's elite sides - Ajax, Rosenborg and Fenerbahce - on a home and away basis with the top two teams from the group advancing to the knockout stages early next year.
The competition, which also features Barcelona, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Manchester City, Marseille and PSV Eindhoven among others, has already produced some cracking encounters.
Ajax are the early pace-setters in Villa's pool having also earned a convincing 5-1 over Fenerbahce.
Victor Fischer, our nemesis in the opening game, bagged his second goal of the tournament and Yousseff Fennich helped himself to a brace.
Meanwhile, Sporting Lisbon are the team to catch in Group 2 having comfortable despatched all three of their rivals Liverpool, Molde and Wolfsburg.
In Group 1, British crowds have been afforded two opportunities to see the future Messis and Iniestas when Barcelona defeated Celtic and Manchester City 3-1 and 2-1 respectively.
The much-fancied Patricio Gabarron stole the show for the Barca boys at Celtic Park while two-goal Miguel Angel propelled himself into the spotlight with true Catalan panache at a packed out Ewen Fields.
But the most eye-catching performance by a British team so far came when Tottenham Hotspur hammered Italian side Inter Milan 7-1.
With a flurry of goals, drama aplenty and an abundance of youthful exuberance and flair on display, the NextGen Series has been an undoubted success with the punters so far.
It is hoped the tournament will be a huge hit when it arrives in B6 too, as our young lions gear up to step into the future of football.
Tickets for Villa's home NextGen Series fixtures are available in a brilliant three-match package, costing £7 for adult season ticket holders, £10 for adult non-season ticket holders, £2 for U16 season ticket holders and £5 for U16 non-season ticket holders.
Individual match prices are £3 for adult season ticket holders or £4 for adult non-season ticket holders, £1 for U16 season ticket holders and £2 for U16 non-season ticket holders.
Tickets are available from the ticket offices at Villa Village or Birmingham New Street, by calling 0800 612 0970 or by purchasing online - click here.
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