Manchester City are a rising force in academy football and Under-18s manager Jason Wilcox has urged his players to complete a landmark achievement for the club in The FA Youth Cup Final.
City are back in the final for the second year running but so are Chelsea, who have dominated the landscape in recent years.
Manchester City v Chelsea
The FA Youth Cup Final
7.45pm, Friday 22 April 2016
Manchester City Academy Stadium
Live on ITV4
The Londoners have won the cup six times – and a remarkable four times in the last six years – most recently beating City 5-2 on aggregate in 2015.
But there are signs City could be on the verge of matching such achievements, as they head into Friday’s first leg at their Academy Stadium on a 15-match unbeaten run.
And according to Wilcox, his side’s battles with Chelsea over recent times has only strengthened the set-up further.
“When you look at Chelsea’s record in the UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup Finals, it’s remarkable,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and it’s one that we aspire to. They are the benchmark of academy football but I’m really convinced that we’re catching them up and we’re catching them up quick.
“That’s healthy for football in this country. The Chelsea staff are fantastic and their academy manager Neil Bath is a great guy and he knows that we’ve got to push each other.”
Wilcox continued: “This season I think we’re a better team all round.
“Although we had a really good chance last year, the lads set the precedent by getting to the final and what we’re trying to do is what Chelsea have done – to get to the final every year.
“If we do that then we have a really good chance of winning things. Getting to finals is really important. It’s not the be all and end all of our season but it’s an important part of our development.”
City, who squeezed past Arsenal in the semis with a 4-3 aggregate victory, have already proven that Chelsea can be beaten after coming from behind to win a league fixture by that very scoreline earlier this season.
But one youngster hoping to help keep the score down this time is Nathan Baxter, who is set to play between the sticks for Chelsea.
Chelsea resoundingly saw off Blackburn Rovers 4-1 in their own semi-final and Baxter says that, for the most part, the back four in front of him have been extremely tough to break down all year.
“In pre-season Joe [Edwards, Under-18s manager] talked a lot about trying to keep our goals conceded down,” said Baxter.
“I think that was an area he identified which he wanted to improve in terms of the team and I’ve been lucky to have been playing behind great defences this season.
“At times perhaps I’d have wanted a few more shots than I have had to deal with to show people what I can do but it’s great to play in front of those boys who are so solid.
“Bill Thompson, our goalkeeping coach, did a bit of analysis and found that we have only been conceding four shots on target per game so that’s a credit to those boys.
Anything that the club does there’s a winning mentality here, that’s driven into us really from an early age. Any time we walk out on to the pitch, whether it’s a league game or the Youth Cup, we want to win.”
You can watch tonight's FA Youth Cup Final (first leg) on ITV4 from 7.30pm, with live updates and goals on The FA's official Twitter account.