FC Schalke 04 coach Norbert Elgert says Chelsea FC are "great favourites for this year's title" after the London side avenged last season's loss with a 3-1 win.
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One matchday in and the 2014/15 UEFA Youth League has begun to dispense some clues as to who might be the dominant teams this time round. According to the coach of FC Schalke 04, the young talents making their way at Chelsea FC have already put down a marker.
The teams know each other well. Also paired in last season's group stage, they then met in the quarter-finals when Schalke turned the tables after two group defeats with an emphatic 3-1 victory at the London club's training headquarters.
With the memory still relatively fresh of that stepping stone to the semi-finals, it might have been thought that this early reunion in Group G would once again go the way of the German side; after all their squad included eight from last season's group, twice the number their opponents retained. Not a bit of it. Chelsea showed their quality in a 4-1 triumph, impressing everyone in attendance, not least Schalke coach Norbert Elgert.
"Chelsea were clearly the better team in every department and my team had no chance," he said. "Chelsea have improved in all positions since our quarter-final victory and it is one of the best achievements I have seen in the last months. They have improved in quickness, in mentality, in technique and after this win I make them great favourites for this year's title. Maybe they are better than the Barcelona team who won the competition last season.
"I have a problem in our club, and that is that the hype is very big. This was a great opportunity for many of my players to see that talent is not enough. Talent brings you through the door but attitude and mentality and the capability to always give your best in every training session and every match is more important than talent. But it's just one game and I'm sure we will improve."
Chelsea coach Adi Viveash was naturally delighted with his young team's display with three 17-year-olds: captain Izzy Brown, Dominic Solanke – whose birthday was only last weekend – and Ola Aina on the scoresheet. The impressive Brown scored two eye-catching goals.
"Obviously [Schalke] have a little bit more experience in their team this year and we have the youthfulness, if you like, and today that came out on top," Viveash explained. "That's how we play here – our Under-18s are young, our U21s are young – we like that, but in European competitions that's quite a big obstacle. With a younger group they sometimes play with freedom but I'm sure there will be times when physically it becomes an issue.
"It's all about developing young players for their development path, because if they go on to play in our first team then these are the sort of games they're going to experience, but on the bigger stage. The more games we can get at this level and in this competition can only be beneficial to the players and will certainly aid their career path."