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Friday 24 August 2012

Big stage awaits Barclays U21 Premier League

The Etihad Stadium and the Emirates Stadium play host to weekend's U21 matches

Chelsea's Billy Clifford, right, vies with Manchester City's Marcos Lopes at Griffin Park

Supporters of Manchester City, Arsenal and Reading will be able to watch their Under-21 sides in action at their beloved home grounds this weekend as the inaugural Barclays U21 Premier League season moves into its second round.

With each club required to play two group games in their first team's home stadium Man City, Arsenal and Reading's U21 players will get the chance to run out at the Etihad Stadium, the Emirates Stadium and the Madejski Stadium on Friday and Saturday.

"It's a great experience for them and an important one for me too"
Attilio Lombardo

A crowd of 3,000 packed into Brentford's Griffin Park on Friday as Man City played out an entertaining draw with Chelsea, and a week on, Attilio Lombardo's charges will be hoping to attract more crowds and more goals as the Etihad Stadium opens its doors to the public for free for Friday night's visit of Middlesbrough.

"It's a great experience for them and an important one for me too as I've never managed there before," Lombardo told the club's official website, before extolling the character shown by his side against Chelsea.

City character

"We started well for the first 10 minutes against a really high quality Chelsea team who came back strongly into the game but it was then, in the second half that the spirit of my guys really came through.

"We put George Evans in front of the defence and he did very well in providing cover for them and from then on Chelsea didn't look as dangerous."

Lombardo's charges will need to show the same character against a club known for the quality of their youth academy.

"Playing a couple of games in the main stadium should spur them on"
Terry Burton

Middlesbrough gave an outstanding performance against Crystal Palace at the weekend with Matty Dolan, Wilson Kneeshaw, Ryan Brobbel and Jarrett Rivers all on target in a 4-0 victory.

Arsenal were also in free-scoring form last weekend, when 4,374 fans - including the club's new Spanish signing Santi Cazorla - turned out at the Emirates to watch a fine comeback win from the Gunners, who rallied from a goal and a man down to beat Bolton 3-1.

"Playing a couple of games in the main stadium is fantastic," Arsenal reserve team and head development coach Terry Burton told the Independent. "It's very exciting for the players. That should spur them on.

"I'm sure when they walked out here, some of them have not played here before, so they will be looking around saying 'I want a bit more of this'. It is part of the new structure which I am really for."

Akpom excitement

England Under-19 international Chuba Akpom, who gave a strong performance against Bolton, is also in favour of the opportunity to play at Arsenal's home ground. 

"It is quite exciting to know we're playing at the Emirates again," he told the club's website. "When I came out of the tunnel, the first thing I saw was the fans and I was really happy.

"Playing at the Emirates gives me a real hunger to go on and play for the first team"
Chuba Akpom

"Playing at the Emirates gives me a real hunger to go on and play for the first team. Even watching the first team against Sunderland, it really motivates you. You see all the fans, you see the way they are treated and it makes you want to follow in their footsteps."

With the Emirates Stadium once more the venue and Connor Henderson and Thomas Eisfeld looking to add to the goals they scored on Monday, another big turn-out is expected for the visit of Blackburn Rovers, who were undone by a Jamar Loza hat-trick at Norwich last time out. Admission is once more £4 for adults and £2 for concessions, or £3 and £1 for members.

Majedski stage

Reading's Development coach Chris Cummins is equally excited about his U21 side's opportunity to play at the Madejski Stadium on Friday night against West Brom.

"We're really looking forward to it, Cummins told the club's website. "It's at the stadium on a great pitch which a lot of the lads would have never played on before so it will be good for them.

"The training ground pitch at Hogwood is brilliant anyway, but it will be great for the youngsters to experience the atmosphere.

"It will be great for the youngsters to experience the atmosphere"
Chris Cummins

"This is what U21 level is all about – playing on good pitches against good opposition. It bodes well for a really good game. Hopefully a few people will be supporting us on as that always helps the team."

The Barclays Under-21 Premier League Group 1 clash will kick off at 7pm at Madejski Stadium, and admission is just £4 for adults and £2 for concessions. More information here

Crystal Palace host their first match and will take on Liverpool on Bank Holiday Monday with pre-booked tickets on sale from £5 (£1 concessions), rising to £8 (£1) for tickets on the gate. More information here


Friday 24th August, 2012

GROUP 1 - Reading v West Bromwich Albion (Madejski Stadium) 7pm Ticket information

GROUP 3 - Manchester City v Middlesbrough (Etihad Stadium) 7pm admission free

Saturday 25th August, 2012

GROUP 1 - Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers (Emirates Stadium) 2pm Ticket information

Sunday 26th August, 2012

GROUP 1 - Everton v West Ham United (Finch Farm TG) 1pm

Monday 27th August, 2012

GROUP 1 - Bolton Wanderers  v  Norwich City (Lancashire FA) 2pm


Crystal Palace v Liverpool (Selhurst Park) 3pm Ticket information

Fulham v  Wolverhampton Wanderers (Motspur Park) 2pm

Wednesday 29 August, 2012

GROUP 2 - Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur (Altrincham FC) 7pm

You can follow developments on Twitter with the Premier League’s account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL.

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Key Points

  • Man City, Arsenal & Reading to stage U21 fixtures at prestigious home venues
  • Etihad Stadium, Emirates Stadium and Madejski Stadium to host matches
  • Manchester City v Middlesbrough will be free admission on Friday night