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Wednesday 07 May 2014

Barclays U18s: Four teams battle it out to reach final

Man City host West Ham while Everton take on Spurs in the semi-finals of the competition

Thierry Ambrose has scored 22 goals in all competitions for Man City U18s this term

Manchester City will look to build on a positive season at youth level, with challenges for honours across multiple age groups, when they take on West Ham United in the semi-finals of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League at Platt Lane Training Complex on Saturday.

  Attack v defence
Man City have scored more than any other team in the BU18PL (87) this season, while West Ham have conceded the fewest (36)

In addition to winning Premier League National tournaments at Under-12 and under-14 levels, City were runners-up in the inaugural Under-21 Premier League Cup, lost to Chelsea in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League semi-finals in a penalty shoot-out and reached the last eight of the Under-19 UEFA Youth League, which included a 6-0 thrashing of German giants Bayern Munich.

City donminated the Barclays U18 Premier League North Group, finishing top with 70 points, seven more than any other side across the two divisions, with Jason Wilcox’s side the highest scorers in the league, with 87 goals in 31 matches. France Under-16 international Thierry Ambrose is top scorer, netting 19 goals in 27 appearances for Man City.

Looking to stop them in the one-legged match will be West Ham, who finished runners-up in the South Group on 57 points, five ahead of last year’s finalists Reading and six above defending champions Fulham. West Ham secured their play-off spot with a 1-1 draw against Arsenal last Friday.

Steve Potts' Hammers have conceded just 36 goals throughout the league campaign, the tightest defence across both divisions. City are the next best defensively, having shipped 40 goals.

Their leading scorer, Kieran Bywater, is also on 19 goals this season in the comeptition but the captain is still below the target he set for himself.

"I aimed for 20 goals at the beginning of the season and I'm not quite there yet, but it would be nice to get there in these next couple of games and hopefully we can beat Manchester City at the weekend," he told West Ham TV. "I'm on 19, so hopefully I can get another goal in the play-offs to add to my total, but the main focus is to do well for the team and get through to the play-off final."

Toffees Spurred on for Goodison test

Everton will be hoping to go one better than their semi-final appearance in the 2012/13 Barclays Under-18 Premier League campaign as they host Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in the other semi-final.

A year on from a last-four exit at the hands of Reading, Everton progressed to the knockout stages, finishing 12 points above Liverpool in third in the North Group. Kevin Sheedy’s side were on an 11-match unbeaten run before their final regular league match ended in a 2-1 defeat by Manchester United.

Everton accrued just one point fewer than Spurs, the South Group winners, over the 31-match season, and the two sides showed how evenly matched they are last month when they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in north London.

Spurs, who finished six points clear of West Ham, have been the division's entertainers, scoring 82 goals during the league campaign. Fifteen of those goals came in their last four league games, which included a 7-2 defeat of Chelsea at Cobham Training Centre.

Barclays U18 Premier League semi-finals

Saturday 10 May
Manchester City U18 v West Ham United U18, Platt Lane Training Complex, Manchester M14 7UU, 11am. Free entry

Sunday 11 May
Everton U18 v Tottenham Hotspur U18, Goodison Park, 5:30pm
Tickets: £3 and £1 More info

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Key Points

  • The Barclays U18 Premier League semi-finals take place this weekend
  • North Group winners and top scorers Man City host West Ham
  • Everton will face South Group champions Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park