"Fantastic", "perfect" and "priceless" – those are just some of the words used to describe the inaugural UEFA Youth League campaign, which has produced drama and goals aplenty and has been generously supported during its first three matchdays.
The format of the Under-19 tournament, which is open to players born on or after 1 January 1995, broadly mirrors that of the UEFA Champions League, with teams playing in a group stage based on that of Europe's top club competition.
Highlights, live coverage
If proceedings so far are anything to go by, viewers on Eurosport – who hold the media rights to broadcast up to two games per matchweek – and fans at the stadiums can expect to be royally entertained when the action continues on Tuesday.
The 48 games to date have yielded 182 goals, an average of 3.8 per match, with Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona's respective 6-2 defeats of Juventus and AC Milan the highest-scoring encounters. The Merengues' emphatic win, in which Juan José Narváez struck four times, is one of a number of ties of which UEFA.com has extended highlights. Head to our video section for more.
While success is the aim for the 32 sides, the key tenet of the competition – player development – is never far from the lips of those on the touchline.
"It's something that has probably been lacking for many a year: the opportunity to play at this level and in the calibre of tournament such as this," Celtic FC manager John Kennedy told UEFA.com. "It's second to none. Getting the opportunity to play against Barcelona, Milan and Ajax can only enhance the development of our players."
FC Porto coach Nuno Capucho echoed those sentiments, saying after his team's 3-1 victory over Club Atlético de Madrid that the "competition is perfect for our young players to test the quality of the Portuguese youth system and of our own club against some of the best European players of their age."
As well as being an environment in which players take on the best of their continental peers, the UEFA Youth League is also designed to help ready them for life in the senior ranks.
"It is good because the players get a feeling for what they can expect when they are in the first team," explained Manchester City FC's Patrick Vieira before his team's opener against FC Viktoria Plzeň. Vieira's selection are one of the sides that can seal early progress to the last 16 next week.
"We had a really good chance to travel with the first team, with journalists asking them questions – that is the experience needed to develop on and off the field," he continued.
Teams who can qualify on matchday four
Group A: Real Sociedad de Fútbol
Group C: SL Benfica
Group D: Manchester City FC, PFC CSKA Moskva
Group E: Chelsea FC, FC Schalke 04
Group F: Arsenal FC
Group G: FK Austria Wien
Group H: FC Barcelona
The knockout round draw takes place on 16 December (the same day as the UEFA Champions League round of 16 and UEFA Europa League round of 32 draws). That will map out the route to the final which will be played at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland – see the full competition regulations and format.
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