After making a dream start to the UEFA Youth League group stage in the form of a surprising 1-0 victory away to Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia's U19s face their next Herculean task against AC Milan on Wednesday (kick-off at 14:00 CET at the Brackel Youth Performance Centre, ticket info).
"This is a really good team that reached the semi-finals last season and are even better this year. We will need a perfect day to compete against them," commented head coach Mike Tullberg. Milan claimed a comfortable 4-0 victory against Newcastle United in their opening match and top the standings in the Primavera 1, the Italian championship, ahead of Inter Milan and Empoli. Coach Ignazio Abate's charges dropped points for the first time in a 1-1 draw in Florence last weekend. "Milan play in a typically Italian way: comfortable on the ball, relaxed, hardly any mistakes and a perfect mastery of transition play," said Tullberg, describing the approach of a team that consists of many youth international players.
He has been impressed by the attack of Francesco Camarda, who scored two goals against Newcastle at the age of only 15, midfielder Alessandro Bonomi, who already has three competitive goals to his name, and rapid winger Chaka Traore, who has already played for the first team. Milan strengthened their defensive ranks over the summer by bringing in Jan Carlo Simic from Stuttgart. Their midfield fulcrum is Nigeria U20 international Victor Eletu.
Tullberg: "Ready for big performances"
There is great respect for AC Milan, but Mike Tullberg is also in a confident mood: "We don't need to hide away and are ready for big performances in the UEFA Youth League. The team has shown in Paris and recently against 1. FC Köln what they're capable of." The win against Paris Saint-Germain was certainly no fluke. And in the Bundesliga, captain Filippo Mane and his team-mates have won their last seven matches, scoring 23 goals and conceding only one in the process. The fact they have found remarkable defensive stability is in part down to Rafael Lubach, the central midfielder whose performances have been rewarded with a call-up to the U19 national team by Germany coach Christian Wörns for the European Championship qualification tournament against Kazakhstan, North Macedonia and Poland. Centre-back Leonardo Posadas is on the standby list.
The positive development the new U19s have made stems from a combination of passion, good training in both tactical and footballing terms, and individual class. In addition, the team possesses top quality in attacking positions in the shape of strikers Paris Brunner and Julian Rikjhoff. Brunner tops the Bundesliga scoring charts with 10 goals, while Rijkhoff decided the match in Paris with a dream strike and also scored the important opening goal against 1. FC Köln.
"We have great desire and are looking forward to testing ourselves against top European teams," declared Tullberg, who is hoping for "great support" from the fans and a full to the brim Jugendstadion despite the early kick-off time. He promises: "The team will give everything." The squad, which will be complemented by U23 players Hendry Blank and Samuel Bamba, will be unchanged compared to the group opener in Paris. (wiwi)