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Slow-burning Madrid gaining momentum

Team profile: Real Madrid CF made a slow start but accounted for Juventus in the group stage and SSC Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain so far in the knockout rounds.

Captain Enzo Fernández in action against Paris
Captain Enzo Fernández in action against Paris ©Getty Images

Befitting the most successful club in European competition, Real Madrid CF boast one of the continent's most impressive academies, and the Spanish giants' Under-19s head into the UEFA Youth League semi-finals in excellent shape.

The Merengues advanced with a battling 1-0 quarter-final victory at Paris Saint-Germain, defender Jaime Sánchez settling matters despite the visitors being reduced to ten men after 55 minutes. "It was the biggest day of my life as a player," said Sánchez, who turned 19 that day. "We are very united in the dressing room. The friendship we have means we never consider ourselves beaten."

Sánchez epitomises that team spirit, and the display of resilience and patience in Paris followed a 2-1 home success against SSC Napoli in the last 16, when Aleix Febas dramatically sealed Madrid's progress deep in added time. Before that, Madrid's more swashbuckling qualities were to the fore in Group B, which they topped with a 16-goal haul, including four strikes from Juan José Narváez in a 6-2 home thrashing of Juventus.

Narváez has also featured for Madrid's reserves this season, while four-goal Javier Muñoz is a penetrating presence in midfield along with Enzo Fernández, playmaking son of Zinédine Zidane. Marcos Legaz brings pace and purpose on the left; right-back Francisco José Rodríguez packs a blistering shot, weighing in with three strikes so far.

"We try to develop the idea of keeping the ball, handling it properly and thus playing football," says coach Luis Miguel Ramis. "That's valuable against teams from any country." For his players, it could also provide a route into the senior set-up of the nine-time European champions. "These trips are something special. They help the boys get that extra motivation; to dream about a first-team place, to see what's required, what effort it takes and the work you have to put in."

Number: 3
A technically adroit No10 like his father Zidane, Enzo Fernández has served up three assists so far.

Coach: Luis Miguel Ramis
Date of birth: 25/07/1970
Originally from Catalonia, Ramis was a centre-back in his playing days, starting out at local club Gimnàstic de Tarragona before signing for Madrid in 1991. He also had spells with Sevilla FC and RC Deportivo La Coruña, joining Madrid's coaching set-up after retiring in 2006.

Academy spotlight
Famed primarily for the 'Quinta del Buitre' generation of the 1980s, La Fábrica has supplied the current senior squad with the likes of Iker Casillas, Daniel Carvajal, Jesé and Álvaro Morata.

Road to Nyon
Group stage: Galatasaray AŞ 1-1 (a), FC København 1-1 (h), Juventus 6-2 (h), Juventus 2-0 (h), Galatasaray AŞ 1-1 (H), FC København 2-3 (a) – Group B winners

Round of 16: SSC Napoli 2-1 (h)

Quarter-finals: Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 (a)

Top scorer: Juan José Narváez 5