As Manchester City and Chelsea set to commence their second meeting on stateside soil in less than three days, both teams are handing starts to four youngsters looking to make their respective breakthroughs.
For Chelsea, they’ve opted to bring three youngsters into the fold.
Andreas Christensen (pictured) is a 17 year old Danish international who signed with the club in early 2012 after numerous top English clubs, including City, sought his signature. The 6ft tall center-back is expected to a key man to the Blues back four in the coming seasons, and notably signed with the West London club after they agreed to hire his father as an academy goalkeeping coach. Christensen will partner with David Luiz in today’s clash.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a 17 year old box-to-box midfielder who has been at Stamford Bridge since the age of 8. The England U-17 international has recovered from nagging hip and groin injuries to make seven appearances in the club’s NextGen Series. Expect him to line up alongside Jon Obi Mikel and to control possession and utilize his range of passing skills to set free Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, who partner each other in today’s Starting XI.
Finally, Nathan Ake is an 18 year old Dutchman who joined the Blues from Feyenoord in the summer of 2011 after being noticed in the Under-17 World Cup. Interim manager Rafa Benitez has shown his affinity for Ake, handing him a debut against Norwich on Boxing Day 2012, starting him against Middlesborough in an FA Cup fifth-round tie in February 2013 and giving him a full 90 against Ruben Kazan in the 3-2 quarter-final second leg defeat. Look for Ake to be deployed as a left-back alongside Christensen, Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta.
For City, interim manager Brian Kidd has opted for a full strength lineup but for the inclusion of Dedryck Boyata. Since joining City in 2006 from Brussels, Boyata has struggled to find himself at the Eastlands club. He was handed his debut in January 2010 and marshaled the back four to a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.
Over the course of the next year and a half Boyata made 10 appearances for the Citizens before being sent on loan to Bolton Wanderers in 2011-12 and FC Twente this past season. He struggled to make a dent at both clubs, managing only 14 appearances with the Wanderers and 8 with the Dutch side. Today he’ll state his claim that he deserves a chance to battle Matija Nastasic for a spot alongside captain Vincent Kompany, who he’ll be partnering at center-back in today’s mach.
Today’s match kicks off at 6pm and can be seen on Fox Soccer.
Chelsea Starting XI: Hilario, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Ake, Loftus-Cheek, Mikel, Ramires, Oscar, Ba, Torres
City Starting XI: Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Silva, Boyata, Barry, Aguero, Tevez