Arsenal travel to Aldershot to face Chelsea’s u23 side in the Premier League 2 on Friday, playing their first match after the international break.
Chelsea’s u23s are the current league leaders with 15 points, though Arsenal are only two behind on 13. A win on Friday would lift them above their London rivals, and with second and third place sides Derby and Everton playing each other, this is a big opportunity to make ground on the top three.
Arsenal also have their unbeaten record to protect, having won three and drawn four of their matches so far.
Sam Greenwood and Miguel Azeez featured from the bench for the England u18s on Wednesday, so it would be a tight turnaround to see them starting on Friday, but they should make the bench at least.
The rest of the youth players featuring in international matches shouldn’t have any problem being involved here too if called upon.
The match may be streamed on Chelsea’s website, but the only way to guarantee watching the game is by attending. The match is at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium and costs £3 for adults or £1 concessions for tickets. You can pay on the gate.
Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the clash.
Arsenal have been keeping Matt Macey busy with the u23s recently, which makes it a little difficult to predict who will play this one.
If the club want to save the third-choice goalkeeper for Sheffield United, just in case, Karl Hein or James Hillson will start. Hein has been getting the nod ahead of Hillson recently, so he’s the more likely.
Our guess is that Macey will play though, as this game will be about as good of a test as you can get at u23 level.
There should be wholesale changes here, with Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Konstantinos Mavropanos all likely to step up to the senior side from now on.
That’s not a problem though, as Harry Clarke, Zech Medley and Joseph Olowu are all available as centre-back options, and Zak Swanson and Tolaji Bola can play as full-backs.
Matt Smith is back from injury and played well in the last couple of games, and he’s likely to start alongside Robbie Burton and Jordan McEneff until James Olayinka is back from his own injury absence.
As mentioned, Miguel Azeez is a doubt after featuring for England so soon before this match, but Ben Cottrell could play in place of Smith, Burton or McEneff given his strong u18 form recently. The u18s play Spurs on Saturday though, so he’ll probably be saved.
Tyreece John-Jules is still out with his hamstring injury, but Folarin Balogun should be back in contention after his own knock. Balogun is the PL2’s joint-top scorer with seven goals, and he’s also second in the league for assists with four.
Nathan Tormey and Trae Coyle will join Balogun in a front three.