13 goals in two games – Introducing the Stoke City u18s bidding to take down Chelsea #PL

13 goals in two games – Introducing the Stoke City u18s bidding to take down Chelsea




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Stoke City under-18s’ head into a prestigious Premier League Cup semi-final against Chelsea (10am, Saturday) on the back of a goal rush that hasn’t been entirely unexpected.

Ok, no one was quite predicting 13 goals in two games – with two clean sheets to boot – but this youth side under Rich Walker have made a habit of being prolific this season.

Mo Sankoh and Andre Godfrinne have proven a bulldozing, quick and skilful double act up front while Tom Sparrow, Pat Jarrett, Adam Porter and even defender Lewis Macari, twice, have chipped in during an 8-0 quarter-final walloping of Norwich and 5-0 league win over Sunderland.

But this time it’s Chelsea and Chelsea are, well, superb. They beat Wolves 7-0 in the FA Youth Cup in mid-week, having previously stuffed five past Bradford, who had scrambled to a shoot-out win over Stoke in round three. They’ve put eight past Swansea, five past Tottenham, four past Leicester and West Ham.

In other words, it’s the massive test it should be at this stage of a competition for some of the best Academies in world football. And it says a lot that Stoke are not only in it, but are in it with a lot of justified confidence.

Walker said: “We’ve had some good results. In the last two games we’ve obviously scored 13 goals and kept two clean sheets.

“If you trace it back though, we’ve had victories over Manchester United, Everton and West Ham with some good scorelines. We are obviously in good form but we know tomorrow will be a test and we will have to be at our very best to get the result that we want.”

He added: “We are fairly free scoring, particularly of late. The goals have come from a wide range of players, but particularly our front players who pose a real threat. I think teams are fully aware of that and the problems we can cause them.

“We’ve scored goals from different areas so we hope that everyone can bring that to the party, whether that be set plays, runners from midfield. The offensive side of the game has been very good, but also I think we have a good focus to the defensive aspects as well.

“We’ve had two clean sheets in our last two games which I think the lads have celebrated as much as the amount of goals we have scored. That’s a side of it that starts from the front and filters throughout the side.”

Chelsea are trying to regain a title they won in 2018 and have a squad packed with names to remember.

Midfielder Marcel Lewis scored a hat-trick against Wolves on Monday, Holland youth left-back Ian Maatsen has been tipped for the top and Tino Anjorin, another midfielder, featured in the EFL Cup earlier this season.

Walker said in an interview for the Stoke website: “Obviously they are a very highly regarded academy and have a massive budget to spend on their under-18s, and they’ve got good players as you would expect.

“It’s the sort of opposition we want to test ourselves against. We have got the utmost respect for them but we certainly won’t fear them. I think no one will be under any illusions that we will be up against a good side, but as ever, the focus is predominantly on us and what we can do.”

Whatever happens, that last eight performance and result against Norwich was spectacular. On the morning of Stoke’s Championship win over Swansea, first teamers came down to watch on the training ground as the goals kept going in.

“I guess it was the perfect storm in that sense of the performance level, every aspect of our game and what we do came together on the day,” said Walker.

“It was a quarter-final, so a big game, and we got off to an absolute flier, and I think once we were on top we continued to turn the screw. Even though we won the game 8-0, we hit the woodwork three times and had a goal disallowed so it really was a top performance in every way, shape and form.

“The work ethic was the foundation for that and then we have players in the team who we know are capable of producing good results when we click.”

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It has been a perfect response to that shock Youth Cup exit before Christmas – even if that still stings.

Walker said: “We sit fourth in the league and are in the semi-final of the Premier League Cup. There is no getting away that there was huge disappointment with the defeat against Bradford City. We reflected and diagnosed that because I think there’s a massive amount of learning to be taken from them situations.

“The boys have responded really well. We talk about resilience and the boys have displayed that. There’s been a really good response and focus to their work and long may that continue.”

The semi-final, originally scheduled for 11am, has been brought forward to 10am in a bid to avoid the worst of Storm Dennis.

Entry, at Stoke’s Clayton Wood training headquarters, is free for spectators.



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