Their senior teams will take centre stage at the end of the week, but on Wednesday evening youth teams from FC Bayern München and FC Internazionale Milano will enjoy a moment in the spotlight dreaming of following in the footsteps of the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller and Mario Balotelli.
The Under-18 Challenge match - a key part of UEFA Grassroots Day - takes place at the Estádio Alfredo Di Stéfano in Madrid, three days before the senior sides face off in the UEFA Champions League final. With Bayern's lineup at the Santiago Bernabéu likely to contain as many as six graduates of their youth set-up and Balotelli set to appear in the Inter squad – the Serie A champions' other high-profile homegrown prospect Davide Santon has not played since the start of April due to a knee injury – the young stars on show in the Challenge match will not have far to look for inspiration.
Bayern coach Kurt Niedermayer, a three-time league champion at a club where he made almost 150 playing appearances, will be keen for his charges to triumph after a disappointing season for the U19 squad which has left them in tenth position in the 14-team south-west division with three games remaining. They have, however, lost a number of players during the course of the campaign for a variety of reasons leaving Niedermayer to turn to several U17 players, with 17-year-old David Alaba absent for long periods having broken into the senior side.
Inter, however, have their own disappointment to assuage having lost to Empoli FC in the play-offs for the Scudetto Primavera last week, drawing 1-1 at San Siro after a 1-0 away defeat in the first leg. A 19th goal of the season for the Italy Under-19 international Mattia Destro – the son of former Ascoli Calcio captain Flavio Destro – was not enough for Inter, who had finished the regular league season in first place, leaving coach Fulvio Pea to bemoan the pressure his charges had felt at playing in unfamiliar surroundings. "I think my players felt too much pressure because of the importance of the game and playing at San Siro," he said. "It was an unlucky season." However, Inter and Bayern will both hope to end on a high note in Madrid.
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