Friday 09 August 2013
This year's Barclays Under-21 Premier League bursts into life this weekend when last season's runners-up Tottenham Hotspur take on Chelsea on Friday night.
Chris Ramsey's team, who lost 3-2 to Manchester United in a thrilling final at Old Trafford in May, travel to Aldershot's Rec Ground for the opening match of the season.
Spurs had an impressive campaign last year, winning both league stages before the play-offs, and scoring 82 goals in 28 matches.
"First and foremost I'm hoping we can perform like we did last season and that will then help the players get to the next level," Tottenham Hotspur's Senior Professional Phase Coach Chris Ramsey told the club's website.
"First and foremost I'm hoping we can perform like we did last season"
"That will bring attention to their performances and hopefully that will mean some of these players will progress in the same way as a number of players did last season.
"From the Academy's point of view and for the philosophy of development, it helps when you play the way you want to play, and win, and score a lot of goals. You don't get that very often. That happened on a consistent basis last season.
"Players went out on loan but other players came in, often younger players, and picked up the baton. To emulate that would be our ideal situation again, but one season to another is always different."
There are 10 matches on the opening weekend, with Manchester City playing Fulham on Sunday at Hyde and Liverpool, who reached the semi-finals last year, host Southampton on Monday.
On the same day, Newcastle United, who finished top of Group 2 in the second stage of the competition last season, open their campaign against Reading at the Madejski Stadium, while Everton, who were beaten semi-finalists in 2012/13, travel to Telford United to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Manchester United begin the defence of their title on 19 August against Liverpool.
The Under-21 League was introduced last summer as part of the most comprehensive review of youth development in over a decade with the aim of helping bridge the gap between Academy and first-team football.
This year's competition has a new format from last season, with 22 Category 1 Academies competing in one national division. Teams will play each other once, home or away, and the top four will progress to the semi-finals and then final to determine who will be crowned champions.
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur, Aldershot Town FC, 7.05pm
Manchester City v Fulham, Hyde FC, 1pm
Liverpool v Southampton, The Academy, 2pm
Middlesbrough v Leicester City, Hartlepool FC, 7pm
Norwich City v Stoke City, Colney Training Centre, 2pm
Reading v Newcastle United, Madejski Stadium, 7pm
Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers, Academy of Light, 2pm
West Bromwich Albion v Blackburn Rovers, WBAFC Training Ground, 3pm
West Ham United v Aston Villa, Rush Green, 7pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton, AFC Telford United, 7pm
You can follow developments in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League throughout the season on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL