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Hong Kong Soccer Sevens: Tournament preview

Hong Kong Soccer Sevens: Our squad for weekend tournament Aston Villa support Birmingham Pride
Hong Kong Soccer Sevens: Tournament preview

The 2018 edition of the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament begins this weekend, with Aston Villa once again in attendance at the annual event.

Mark Delaney and his squad have arrived and are preparing for an assault on the title we have lifted six times – more than any other club.

Below is all the information you'll need ahead of the tournament, as well as details of how you can follow it across the weekend.

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What is the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament?

Launched in 1999, the seven-a-side football competition takes place every year in the month of May.

Hosting a number of professional English clubs, the tournament gives the next generation of talent the opportunity to compete on the international stage against teams from all over the world.

The likes of Jack Grealish and Gabby Agbonlahor have previously enjoyed success in Hong Kong with the claret and blues.

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How does the format work?

We will take part in what is known as the 'Main Tournament'.

Sixteen teams split across four groups compete against each other in the preliminary stages, in matches that are seven minutes per half with a one-minute break at half-time.

The top two sides in the group qualify for the knockout rounds, where games increase to two 10-minute halves and a three-minute break at the interval.

In the latter stages, matches will go to extra-time (where teams are reduced to four-a-side) and penalties to determine winners.

What's our track record at the tournament?

We've won it more than any other club – six times in total (2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2016).

We last tasted success two years ago, beating West Ham United in the final.

Last season, we lost in the showpiece to Leicester City.

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Who is playing for Villa this year?

Coach Mark Delaney has has taken a good chunk of the squad that won the Premier League Cup and finished runners-up in Premier League 2 Division 2 this season.

Villa Young Player of the Season award winner Callum O'Hare is among those included for the weekend tournament.

The likes of Mitch Clark, Alex Prosser, Corey Blackett-Taylor, Jordan Cox and Kelsey Mooney are other regular U23 starters who have travelled.

Click here to see the full squad.

How can I follow it?

All matches will be streamed via the tournament's Official YouTube channel.

Click here to see the Young Lions' tournament schedule and broadcast times.

What are playing conditions like in Hong Kong?

Temperatures are currently averaging around 30 degrees, with humidity levels hovering around the 90 per cent mark.

Playing on near full-size pitches, matches are short in length but high in intensity levels.

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How will we approach it?

U23s coach Delaney is eager to win the title back having suffered disappointment in the final on his first trip to Hong Kong last year.

He's also excited by a change in format at the end of a long season in which we've been fighting on multiple fronts.

He said: "It's quite a change to what players and staff are used to. Both in terms of the format and the experience.

"Players are taken out of their usual environment and are tasked with playing in very different conditions, with temperatures very hot.

"Going up against sides from all around the world is a big asset to their development.

"It's an amazing place with great people and we're looking to come back with the trophy and go one better than last year."

Dan Connor
By @danconnor 16th May 2018