Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back in the neighborhood

The Under-19 Champions League, better known as the NextGen Series is back and bigger than ever. As you might recall Inter Milan left Brisbane Road with all the marbles.

This year, Europe's best U19 club competition has expanded to 24 teams with six home-and-away round robin groups. The top two from each group move on and the next four highest point-scoring third place teams join them in the one-off knockout rounds.

Fifteen of last year's 16 teams return with only FC Basel not choosing to return. The 24 clubs hail from 13 different countries.

The groups and their standings - which you can see follow here on NSC throughout the tournament - are as follows (debutants italicized):

Group 1        Pts   GF   GA   GP
Tottenham     3     3     2     1
Barcelona       1     1     1     1
Anderlecht     1    1      1    1
Wolfsburg      0     2     3     1

Wolfsburg was probably the best team not make the knockouts last season and got out to an early lead at home against Tottenham before name-you-should-know Alex Pritchard dragged the team back to a 3-2 win. Much of the Barcelona team that dominated the early stages of last year's competition is gone. The replacements struggled with Anderlecht before Toni Sananbria blocked home a scuffed something to split the points.


Group 2               Pts   GF   GA   GP
Paris St. Germain 3     2     0     1
Fenerbahce          1     3      3     1
Juventus              1     3      3     1
Manchester City   0     0     2     1

Juventus and Fenerbahce scored within 10 minutes of each other thrice to start what should be an absolutely silly group.PSG threw down the gauntlet with a 2-0 at City.


Group 3            Pts   GF   GA   GP
CSKA Moscow    6      4      2     2
Ajax                  0      0      0     0
Chelsea             0      1      2     1
Molde                0      1      2     1

CSKA Moscow snagged a pair of 2-1 wins with four different goal scorers. One away to Chelsea and another at home against Molde, whose U-19 American rooting interest is depleted by Sean Cunningham's loan to Stabaek.  Not all the fixtures are set for this group yet, but Ajax will play soon.

Group 4             Pts  GF   GA   GP
PSV Eindhoven   3    1      0      1
Sporting CP        3    3      1       1
Celtic                0     0      0       0
Aston Villa         0     1      4      2

Aston Villa academy star moved on to the first team and missed the Villains' first match against a fairly dominant Sporting. Then he was ruled out for the year with a ruptured ACL before Villa suffered another loss at PSV. Gardner dug Villa out of a lot of holes last season. Hope for a recovery for him and a change in form for his former academy teammates.

 
Group 5                    Pts   GF  GA  GP
Borussia Dortmund    0      0     0     0
Inter Milan                 0     0      0     0
Liverpool                   0      0     0     0
Rosenborg                  0      0     0    0

The schedule is irregular.

Group 6          Pts   GF  GA  GP
Arsenal           3       4    0     1
Athletic Club  3       3    0     1
Marseille         0       0    3     1
Olympiacos     0       0    4     1

Both Arsenal and Athletico Bilbao got off to good enough debuts. Bilbao slammed four past Olympiacos in front of 3,000 fans at home. Yesterday the mini-Gunners put one, er, three over on their French brethren. Remember that Marseille was a very up-and-down, beating Barcelona 4-2 and losing to Celtic twice. Such is youth.

For full fixtures click here. 

- Jacob Klinger

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