UEFA Youth League Preview: Krasnodar U19 – Real Madrid U19

Krasnodar v Real Madrid

Krasnodar’s UEFA Youth League game against Real Madrid this Wednesday is of huge importance for the club from southern Russia. Obviously, winning this game is necessary in order to move on to the quarterfinals of the tournament. However, this game holds a significance beyond the scope of this competition. Krasnodar is a club founded on the idea of building a world-class youth academy and getting youth team players to the first team. This project is still in its early phases. In fact, the club hasn’t even had its first class of graduates who were brought all the way up through the youth system. However, but this game offers an early barometer of the progress that the club has been making. Real Madrid’s youth setup belongs in the upper stratosphere of youth academies, along with the likes of Chelsea and Barcelona, and that is a level that Krasnodar hopes to achieve one day.

The importance of this match is set to be substantiated by the size of the crowd in attendance. Originally, the match was supposed to be held at Krasnodar’s academy stadium, which seats 3,000 spectators. However, many fans petitioned for the game to be held at Krasnodar’s main stadium, which seats 33,979 if demand for tickets was high enough. Demand for tickets was indeed very strong, so Krasnodar put tickets on sale for the general population. In the end, ticket sales exceeded everyone’s expectations, and the match sold out over a week before kickoff, smashing the previous UEFA Youth League attendance record of 12,000.

Tactical Preview

This matchup features two fluid attacking sides who score loads of goals. In fact, Real have scored 21 goals in their six group stage games, while Krasnodar has scored 20 in their four qualifiers. Expect a very fast-paced game, with chances abound. There is an element of unpredictability at play because Krasnodar has never faced a team of Real Madrid’s calibre before. While they have easily dealt with the weaker sides they have faced in the run-up to this game, the boys from Madrid are a whole different prospect. Madrid’s technical ability could make it different for the young Bulls to keep possession of the ball as they prefer to do, and could lead to them being forced to counterattack. This style would suit their team just fine though, due to the pace that they possess in their attacking line.

Players to Watch

Krasnodar’s U19 team is far and away the most talented in Russia. The Bulls qualified for the UEFA Youth League domestic champions path by sweeping through the domestic cup competition last year, beating Spartak Moscow 3-0 in the final, and were crowned Russian champions. Krasnodar’s U21 team, which largely consists of U19 players, sits atop the Russian League Youth Championship by a margin of three points. Several players on this team have already made their debut for the first team, with many others sure to follow. Two players, Daniil Utkin and Ilya Martynov, were featured in the Guardian’s Next Generation series, which features 60 of the most promising players born in the years 1999 and 2000. If any team in Russia is talented enough to stand up to Real Madrid, it is this one.

Ivan Ignatiev

Ivan Ignatiev

Krasnodar’s danger man and surely the team’s biggest talent, Ignatiev is a must watch player. The young striker has tallied an astonishing ten goals in four games thus far in Youth League qualification and notched another 16 goals in 20 games in Russia’s domestic youth league. Ignatiev’s fine form for the club’s youth teams has seen him awarded five caps with the first team, in which he has scored two goals in 287 minutes of action, including a late game-winner against Akhmat Grozny.

READ MORE: Ones To Watch – Ivan Ignatiev

Daniil Utkin

Daniil Utkin is the most creative of Krasnodar’s three midfield players. Having drawn comparisons to Paul Scholes due to his eye for long balls and ability to quickly switch play, Utkin is an important part of Krasnodar’s ability to break down opposing defences. Besides his vision and passing ability, Utkin also has an eye for goal, having scored 11 goals in Russia’s youth league. Physically, Utkin looks an awkward runner at times and doesn’t cut a very athletic figure, but don’t be fooled- he has an “it” factor about him that catalyzes good things for the Bulls.

Artem Golubev

As the captain of both Krasnodar’s and Russia’s U19 teams, Artem Golubev is clearly a very strong leader. He plays a crucial role in Krasnodar’s midfield trio as the holding midfielder and provides a much needed vocal presence at the back. Strong in the tackle and very positionally intelligent, Golubev plays a crucial role in breaking up opposing teams’ attacks. He has also grown very proficient at starting Krasnodar’s attacks from the back with raking long balls, which should help to put pressure on Real’s back line very quickly.

Sergey Borodin

Put simply, Sergey Borodin is Krasnodar’s rock at the back. The 187 cm, 81 kg central defender provides a big, physical presence in Krasnodar’s defence. He also is a very fluid athlete and has the pace to run with all but the quickest of strikers, making him a menace to opposing attackers. His ability to play the ball out from the back also means that he is an important part of his team’s build-up play. It is not known if Borodin will be paired with Ilya Martynov or Aleksey Tataev in central defence, which makes it all the more important that he provide a stabilizing presence at the back.

Match Prediction

While Real is probably the stronger team on paper, Krasnodar will be buoyed by a sellout home crowd and the chance to play against a team as renowned as Real Madrid. Expect the young Bulls to start on the offensive right from the beginning of this game, and try to remain aggressive throughout. Call me an optimist, but I think that Krasnodar wins this high scoring affair in front of 33,979 home supporters.

Krasnodar 3-2 Real Madrid

The game is played on Wednesday the 7th of February at 16:00 GMT.

Author: Will Baumgardner

College student in the United States and avid Krasnodar fan. Sergey Galitskiy is the man.

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