"When they talk about the German characteristics of hard work, organisation and a sprinkling of magical flair, they are not wrong," Chelsea FC coach Dermot Drummy said after FC Schalke 04 had eliminated his side in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals.
Drummy might have added another quality to that list: the ability to learn from mistakes. Schalke had been beaten twice by the London club in the group stage but claimed their revenge with an impressive 3-1 away victory to book a place in the semi-finals.
True to the reputation of an academy that has helped nurture many future first-teamers, Schalke will have a number of impressive performers on show in Nyon, notably Leroy Sané, son of former 1. FC Nürnberg and SC Freiburg forward Souleyman Sané. The 18-year-old fashioned Schalke's second goal for Maurice Multhaup in the Chelsea win with a mesmeric run, and is one of several youngsters catching the eye.
At the back Sebastian Starke Hedlund defends with maturity; Adis Omerbašić raids down the right with purpose and power; while the goals of Florian Pick and Multhaup, who scored the clincher in the 2-1 round of 16 success at Real Sociedad de Fútbol, have been vital.
"I know the ability of my team but the tactical discipline we showed over the 90 minutes was very surprising to me," said coach Norbert Elgert after the quarter-final triumph. "For a youth team, we gave a near-perfect performance and showed how we have developed since the first game in the competition."
With a nod to their traditional nickname of 'die Knappen' (the Miners), Schalke revamped their academy ahead of the 2011/12 season when the 'Knappenschmiede' was born – a mining take on 'talent factory'. The number of home-grown talents in the first team is set to increase and club policy is not to let their up-and-coming prospects wait too long for their opportunity.
The number of players who have started Schalke's eight games in the tournament, showing Elgert's reliance on a core group.
Coach: Norbert Elgert
Date of birth: 13/01/1957
A former Schalke player, Elgert returned to the club as a youth coach when his playing days were over, helping in the development of Christian Pander, Sebastian Boenisch and Mike Hanke among others. He has twice led teams to the German youth league title, in 2006 and 2012.
Schalke make a habit of promoting from the youth ranks, with Mesut Özil, Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes and Julian Draxler all making the step up. Max Meyer and Ralf Fährmann are more recent home-grown success stories.
Road to Nyon
Group stage: FC Steaua Bucureşti 3-0 (h), FC Basel 1893 5-0 (a), Chelsea FC 0-2 (h), Chelsea FC 1-0 (a), FC Steaua Bucureşti 1-1 (a), 5-1 FC Basel 1983 (h) – Group E runners-up
Round of 16: Real Sociedad de Fútbol 2-1 (a)
Quarter-finals: Chelsea FC 3-1 (a)
Top scorer: Florian Pick 5
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