Kickoff from White Hart Lane at 7:00PM GMT/2:00PM EST
Liverpool's youngsters return to NextGen Series action today, with their quarterfinal matchup with Tottenham's U19s taking place in London. The brief break in senior squad action allows for attentions to turn to a competition that, on the whole, has been a terrific advertisement for youth football on the continent. Both sides have had an extended layoff, but with a single-leg knockout round format, they'll have to show up ready to go to seal progression to a semifinal meeting with the winner of next week's match between Barcelona and Ajax.
Ways to Watch:
McLaughlin Sama Wisdom Flanagan
Silva Suso Sterling
Bench: McGiveron, Ward, Adorjan, Pelosi, Emilsson, Morgan
Barthram Luongo Veljkovic Stewart
Pritchard Coulibaly Munns
As has been the case for Liverpool's senior squad for much of the season, the U19s struggled to take the chances they created throughout the competition, and had to rely on other results to secure qualification ahead of their final group stage match in mid-November. Sporting's impressive form---which came to an end last week with the 0-1 loss to Inter---left Liverpool playing catch-up along with Molde and Wolfsburg, and during the month and a half break they had after their 3-0 win over Molde at Anfield, they caught enough breaks to render the final round, in which Sporting blew past them 5-1 in Lisbon, meaningless.
Spurs left little doubt as to their qualification, earning the right to host today's match by going undefeated in Group 4 and edging out Inter by three points. Easily their most impressive result of the competition to date was the 7-1 victory over their Italian runners-up, in which they sprinted out to a 6-0 lead and coasted to the competition's widest margin of victories. An early draw in Switzerland with FC Basel and a 1-1 result on the trip to Milan was all that kept them from a 100% record in group stages, and they finished with the third-best points haul across all groups.
We'll likely see a familiar set of names on the team sheet, with Borrell's talented squad all apparently healthy and sticking around for the short-term. Success in the competition is nice and all, but I'd imagine there's plenty of us who'd prefer to see a number of the reserve/academy standouts get a chance to head to the lower-leagues for a spell of first-team action.
Among those names is captain Conor Coady, who spoke earlier in the week of his optimism that Liverpool will turn up for a full ninety today. It's not lip service to say that they were an absolute joy to watch at times in the competition---Raheem Sterling was typically unplayable, Michael Ngoo was impressive up front, Tony Silva showed flashes of skill to balance out more than a few petulant displays, Suso gave glimpses of potential, and Andre Wisdom led a back line that also included solid performances from Brad Smith, Matty McGiveron, and Stephen Sama.
The challenge will ultimately be the same for Rodolfo Borrell's side, in that they'll need to put together the football and the finishing. There's certainly been time for progress, and it's nice to see them tested in a match with some sort of actual stakes. Progress is the ultimate goal, and we might prefer to see some of those involved today moving forward, but for now we can just enjoy their participation in a competition that's given us a chance to get an extended look at the club's future.